Televisions, computers and game consoles provide hours of fun when turned on. But are you aware of the power these gadgets still use when they are turned off?
It’s referred to as ‘phantom energy’.
For the next couple of months, Halton Hills Community Energy Corporation has teamed up with Georgetown District High School staff and students to explore energy consumption and the amount of power electronic gadgets use when they are plugged into the wall and turned to the ‘off’ position.
The school has been equipped with a half-dozen meter readers that test and record the amount of power – or phantom load – used by computers, radios and other electonics when they are technically not in use.
The meter readings will be tabulated and extrapolated into a dollar amount to give staff and students a better sense of what phantom energy truly costs. The goal is for students to learn about energy savings and bring these conservation methods home to practice.
The students will focus on such things as printers, computers, monitors, coffee makers, shredders, cellphone chargers and photocopiers, with an emphasis to apply what they have learned at home to reduce power use. Halton Hills hydro officials estimate as much 10-15 per cent of a home’s typical energy consumption is drawn from phantom energy.
One way to reduce phantom energy use would be to turn off power bars that feed a number of gadgets at one time.
“It’s costing money and doing nothing for you,” said Jennifer Gordon, Halton Hills Community Energy Corporation's smart metering coordinator.
Phantom power wastes energy, resulting in more carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The phantom energy challenge kicked off the new semester of school at Georgetown during an assembly on February 7. Motivational speaker Spencer West from the Me to We Foundation provided an inspirational story by encouraging students to embrace the power challenge as one small way to lead to a cleaner and more self-sustaining planet.
Students Holly Hohban and Alex Jewell are part of the school’s green group that will help read the outlets. They say power consumption needs to be reigned in and simple things like unplugging a laptop when it is already charged is simple to do.
“It really shows students how they can be conserving energy in ways they don’t even know about,” Hohban said. “If they can go home and stop leaving things plugged in, when they get a house of their own, they’re going to start unplugging things. It’s going to have a snowball effect. Unplugging is not that hard.”
Student Success teacher Jeanette Frank said more than 20 students will help measure phantom power throughout the school. She said addressing phantom energy is important at the school level since “our youth tend to unknowingly use a lot of energy.”
According to the Ontario Power Authority and WWF-sponsored Unplug Your Stuff Facebook page, if every student in Ontario unplugged their electrical devices, there would be enough energy to power 5,000 homes for one year, Frank said.
“I hope it shows kids can make a difference,” said Superintendent Mark Zonneveld. “There are lots of direct ways these lessons can be brought into the classroom, where kids can see the impact of what they’re doing.”