Have you ever come home to a plugged-in charger that felt warm while not in use? 

That’s because electricity flows through your cords even when disconnected from your devices, known as ghost power (phantom power or vampire power). 

Ghost power is the energy your home devices, such as laptops, gaming consoles, TV systems, kitchen appliances, alarm clocks, and electric toothbrushes, are consuming when they are plugged in but not actively being used.

On average, household appliances are only used for 3-30 minutes a day. The remainder of the time they may be on standby – drawing ghost power! This can account for up to 10% of your home electrical bill. If you want to get technical, you can purchase an electricity usage monitor to find out how much you’re using when in standby or “off” modes.

Computer plugged in

Toaster plugged in

According to the Associated Electrical Cooperative, a TV console DVR uses an average of 37 watts of phantom energy in 24 hours, accounting for nearly $30 per year in unused energy costs. 

Because electricity generation creates greenhouse gas emissions, ghost power has climate implications! The Natural Resources Defense Council has found ghost power generates 44 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year.

We know that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, which impacts many of the species we have represented at the Zoo. For example, polar bears are facing a shorter sea-ice season, which they rely on for hunting and breeding.

We can take small steps to reduce our impact to help reduce our climate impact and protect our beloved natural ecosystems.

Here are some tips to reduce your phantom power consumption: 

  • TURN OFF - Turn off, don’t just “sleep” devices
  • UNPLUG - Unplug devices once they are off. Don’t forget chargers (phone, laptop, electric toothbrush, and more): even when not connected to a device, these draw power! 
  • USE A POWER BAR - If your device is hard to unplug, install a power bar, and switch the power bar off. Bonus: power bars also function as surge protectors, protecting your electronic equipment from power surges!

Apply these tips to anything that has lights or clocks when off, charges a device, or turns on with a remote as these are common consumers of energy.


A few facts about ghost power from Natural Resources Canada:

  • Phantom power can account for 5% to 10% of your electricity costs.
  • Home electronics are on standby about 75% of the time—some 6,500 hours a year.
  • Up to 40% of the annual energy consumption of electronic devices occurs when they’re turned off.
  • Some devices that are used only rarely consume more energy when they are turned off than when they are in use over the course of a year.
  • The average home has between 20 and 40 consumer electronic devices drawing phantom power.
  • In Canada, phantom power use totals about 5.4 TWh, the equivalent of the annual power consumption of 300,000 households.

Learn more about phantom power and other ways you can reduce your energy consumption here!