Energy theft: Television drains our wallets as well as brains

I caught a thief in my house the other day.

  • Friday, June 13, 2008 6:11pm
  • Life

I caught a thief in my house the other day.

Sneaky, silent, tricky as can be, this miscreant was so smooth, so slick that I hadn’t even noticed its relentless and remorseless ways, even though the culprit was right in front of me the whole time.

The criminal? My television. Its offense? Unauthorized energy consumption, even when switched off.

So “off” doesn’t really mean “off?” Nope, not when it comes to many home electronics.

In the case of my house, “off” for the entertainment center still meant a steady 20-watt draw — or about the same as leaving on a small light bulb day after day, night after night. I nailed the thug with a device call a “Watts Up” that measures energy use.

Why is my TV stealing from me? And since when did the VCR/DVD combo player decide thievery was allowed?

And the old stereo that ate the kids favorite “Wiggles” cassettes? (In full disclosure: I may have accidentally thrown out the Wiggles tape. Plus Raffi and Barney.)

The answer to this electronic skullduggery is the memory that so many devices have today.

How does the TV remember I want to skip the shopping channels? And the VCR to know the time of day for programming?

And the stereo to lock in the right radio stations? Memory, electricity-eating memory, that constantly drains juice from the wall socket and money from your wallet.

If you are older than about 40, you still might remember when TVs had to “warm up,” back when vacuum tubes outnumbered transistors. Now, your TV pops on right away — and doing that means it is always sipping a few electrons, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Certainly, if it’s a TV or stereo you use all the time, you probably want to keep it from getting amnesia and honestly do need it to remember all the channels in its memory. And if you just installed a megaplex home theater system, check the owner’s manual: Some new electronics can be damaged by being shutoff improperly. But what about the old television in the back bedroom, the one that gathers more dust than eyeballs?

The way to foil this crook is simple: Unplug the offenders, or put the whole ancient TV/Stereo/VCR conglomeration on a power strip and switch the whole mess off with one click.

My days of ever recording a show on the VCR ended a few years ago, and that old stereo now gets cranked up sometime between seldom and never.

That electricity, though, it was running from the plug non-stop, even when I wasn’t watching TV.

Take a few minutes and stop that thief from stealing while you are sleeping, out of town or wherever life takes you beyond your television and stereo.

Andy Wappler is a senior public relations manager at Puget Sound Energy. He joined PSE in February 2008 after being chief meteorologist at KIRO-TV. Contact: AskAndy@PSE.com/.

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