In the interest of making this blog a little more useful to readers, I’m adding a “tip of the week” feature to help those who are interested in moving toward increased energy and a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Most of these tips will be small, simple, inexpensive projects you can do to reduce your impact on the environment.

This week’s tip is about reducing phantom loads.

Wikipedia defines a phantom load as “the power consumed by any device when it is switched off.”

Some electrical appliances and gadgets use power even when they’re supposedly shut off. Televisions, for instance, constantly draw a small amount of power. Built-in digital clocks, such as those found on microwaves and VCRs, draw power. Anything with speakers is a potential phantom load. Anything with an LED that stays lit all the time is a phantom load.

You can reduce phantom loads in one of three ways:

1. Unplug these appliances when they are not in use.
2. Connect outlets to a wall switch and shut off the switch when the appliances plugged into the outlet are not in use.
3. Plug appliances into a power strip (such as the surge protectors used for computers and other electronic equipment) and switch off the power strip when the appliances are not in use.

Individually, phantom loads don’t seem like a big deal. But together, they add up … and it’s galling to think about paying for electricity to power something that you aren’t even using.

Do the environment a favor: Pick up a power strip next time you’re at an electronics store and use it to eliminate a phantom load or two around the house. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make your environmental footprint just a little smaller.