Egypt’s Energy Vampires

Cairo’s power cuts continue with no end in sight.  Recently I wrote about cutting electricity consumption by changing a few bulbs – you can read that here – but this got me thinking of what else is draining Egypt’s ailing electricity system and driving up my bills.

I realised there is a vampire on the loose. Whether I’m at work, at home or out on the town, this vampire is taking a bite out of my wallet and is partially responsible for our all to frequent power cuts.  But don’t panic! There is no need stock up garlic and wooden stakes. This vampire works solely through our electric sockets and stopping him is as easy as pulling a few plugs.

vampire-power-barThis villain is called Vampire Power, also known as standby power and phantom load. The term refers to the electricity many gadgets and appliances waste just by being plugged in – even if they’re switched off.

Think about it. What do you think your phone charger does all day while it’s plugged into the wall? If it’s warm when you get home, then it’s been using electricity – even if it had nothing to charge.

Individually, your electric toothbrush may not put that much pressure on the local power plant, but the bigger picture is far from pleasant.  Over time, many microwaves and televisions actually consume more electricity during the hours they’re not in use than the times you’re actually using them.  Imagine that!

I took a tour around my house and noticed that a surprisingly large number of electrical items, from my TV to my microwave and my air conditioners, cannot be switched off completely without being unplugged.

An individual item draws relatively little standby power but after a survey of my friends I found out that a typical expat home here has an average of forty products constantly pulling power. Together these amount to almost 10% of our electricity use.  If all of Egypt were aware of this – think what it could do to ease pressure on power stations and how many power cuts it would prevent.

Don’t believe you are a victim of the vampire?  I am willing to bet that you are. Here are some examples….

Your phone charger constantly supplies a charge, even if the battery is full or if nothing is plugged into it. Many chargers waste as much as 50% of the power they use.  The same goes for your iPad, Kindle and other cordless devices.  If the plug is in the wall, it is wasting watts.

Some gadgets use electricity to power a display screen, a time display or an internal clock. In some cases, this power usage is justified. For example your fridge needs to monitor temperature levels in order to power up at appropriate times. When it comes to your radio however, it’s not so easy to justify a constant power drain just to keep a digital clock lit.

on-standbyMany gadgets never completely shut down. They are ready to use at a moment’s notice. Printers spend hours in standby mode for example and before punch a button on your remote controls, the TV, DVD, and air conditioners are already using electricity to power the sensor that will receive the signal.

Vampire power is on the rise mainly due to the proliferation of rechargeable gadgets, computer networks and devices with standby power functions.

All this energy use enacts a hefty toll.  So here are my vampire fighting facts.

The battle against this energy waster comes down to two tactics:

  • Identify which devices drain power when you are not using them.  Replace them with energy-efficient devices or cut off the power when you aren’t using them.
  • If you’re not using an item – unplug it.  This step is even easier if you use a power strip. Plug multiple items in the strip and simply turn it off when you’re not using the devices.

VampireGraph-power useSome amount of standby power is unavoidable, especially with appliances that are impractical to turn off. But this doesn’t mean vampire power can’t be kept to a minimum. Many electronic devices waste power in standby mode due to poor design. Purchase energy-efficient products and you’ll waste less electricity on standby functions.

All these weapons may seem useless against the billions of LE’s worth of vampire power that leaks through Egypt’s power lines each year. But if enough people become aware of the problem and take steps to prevent it, a vast amount of electricity can be better used.

Change won’t happen overnight and in the meantime the dark nights of power cuts will continue.

With this in mind I have installed two mobile back up power supplies in my apartment and they are awesome!  You can read about them here….  They charge when the power is on and keep my lights, fans, TV and internet running when the power goes off.  This is stand by power at its best.

Martin the Power Man


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