Energy-sucking vampires

Best Buy's not the type of retailer to get much of a sales boost from Halloween, but that doesn't mean it's not celebrating.

The Richfield-based electronics giant declared Oct. 30 National Vampire Awareness Day to get people thinking about the $4 billion wasted from electricity used when appliances are turned off but still plugged in. That so-called "vampire power" accounts for 40 percent of all electricity used to power electronics and appliances in the average American home -- equivalent to the output of 17 power plants.

To ward off such vampires, Best Buy is launching a national campaign exposing the worst energy-sucking offenders: plasma TVs, computers, game consoles, DVRs and adapters for MP3 players and cell phones. Those seemingly innocent electronics and appliances can cost up to $1,000 per household per year in wasted energy.

Even small changes "can result in big savings for people who need easy, cost-effective ways to be sustainable in a volatile economy," said spokeswoman Paula Prahl.

Some tips:

•Turn off computers: Computers in sleep mode can cost an additional $70 per year. By shutting down your computer and printer when not in use, you'll not only save money but also help reduce the machine's contribution to carbon dioxide by 83 percent. If you are unable to turn it off, at least make sure the computer goes into a low-power sleep, standby or hibernate mode.

•Be wary of screen savers: graphics-intense savers can waste power.

•Get unplugged: Chargers -- including those for cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, and even electric toothbrushes -- continue to draw electricity even when the device is not charging. Only 5 percent of the power drawn by a cell phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95 percent is wasted.

•Use a power strip: Plug your chargers into a power strip, and when you're not using them turn the power strip off.

•Look for the star: The typical U.S. household spends about $1,300 on its home energy bills. ENERGY STAR qualified products can reduce that energy bill by up to 40 percent -- totaling hundreds of dollars each year.

KAREN LUNDEGAARD