How I Crushed My #OhmHour Baseline: Turning Circuit Breakers Off

Heard of "energy vampires"? Find out which appliances and electronics might be sucking power, even when they're turned off.

I used to have a hard time saving much electricity during an OhmHour. I would turn off all the lights and sit in the dark, and even then, find out I haven't saved much.

Then I started looking at my phantom loads.

Phantom loads are devices that take power even when they seem to be off.

For example:

  • I have an old microwave which takes about about 40 watts, even when it’s not being used. (Newer Energy Star devices don't have this problem and only take a few watts, but these older devices can be total electricity hogs.)
  • My electric range takes about 20 watts, even when off.
  • My WiFi (which is ALWAYS on) takes 60 watts.

With these and other various devices remaining plugged in, my home can still take 300 watts of electricity even when I’m sitting in the dark!

I’m pleased to report however, that I’ve discovered a simple solution to this. I  go out to the garage and flip off all my circuit breakers during OhmHours. This is the one action guaranteed to give me the maximum reduction since it reduces my usage to zero. You can't get better than that!

Of course, sitting inside my house with all the power off isn't a lot of fun, so typically I will go for a walk, read a book outside or take a friend out to dinner. To be honest, OhmHours are sometimes my favorite time of the week. I tend to work too much so they force me to take a break and relax a little, which never hurts.

Some worries you may have about flipping your breakers, and why you don’t need to stress:

1. I’ll have to reset things once the power comes back on

I have two clocks that need to be reset after I turn back on the power: the one on the microwave and the one by my bed. My other clocks are either battery powered or reset themselves when the power comes back on. But given the earnings I receive, it’s an easy price to pay!

2. Won’t the food in my fridge go bad? 

You may be wondering what happens to the food in the fridge when the power goes out for an hour. I did too! A bit of research put my worries at ease: The FDA has reported food can be in an unpowered refrigerator for up to four hours with no need to stress. During an outage in the past, the power in my house was off for over a day. We were careful not to open the freezer and the food was still frozen when the power came back on. Amazing, right?

3. Will my electrical appliances get damaged? 

Other people wonder if turning off the power this way will damage their electrical appliances. I can’t speak for every type of appliance, but I have been using the circuit breaker off technique for awhile now and haven't had any problems. There are also thousands of other Ohmers that turn off their circuit breakers and we haven't heard of any problems from them either. Electrical devices are designed to withstand power loss or a power cord pulled out abruptly so generally stand up to this well.

So if you want to get the absolute maximum reduction during your OhmHours, do the simple thing I do and just turn off all those circuit breakers!

Max Dunn

Max is driven by his passion to move the world towards a clean energy future. With an engineering degree, a Sustainable MBA and startup experience, he is attacking this problem from many different angles. He is also an electric vehicle nut, riding a Zero electric motorcycle and powering his house from his electric Nissan Leaf.

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