People in my region learned a new term, derecho, on June 29. We now know that a derecho is a fast-moving cold front laden with tremendous thunderstorms. My town saw straight-line winds gusting to 80 miles per hour. The Washington Post reported as many as 5 million lost power from near Chicago to the East Coast, and at least 22 were killed. Trees were downed by the thousands. Maryland’s governor likened it to an unannounced hurricane.
In spite of the destruction, the storm itself, which hit here at 11 p.m., was in some ways beautiful. For a 45 minute period, there was never a moment when there wasn’t at least one flash of lightning visible! It was among the greatest light shows I’ve witnessed.
My family was among the lucky ones. Our electricity was out for only three hours. I know people who still do not have power. They are suffering because following the storm we have experienced high temperatures of near 100 degrees.
After the storm, I walked through our house and was shocked by how dark it was. Of course no light was coming in from outside, but it was much darker than normal inside, too. It wasn’t because all of our lights were off. I often walk around in our house at night with no lights on. It was because there were no power indicator lights and displays. All of the dozens of devices that have lights were powered down.
For a brief time, there was no vampire load.
Vampire loads, also known as standby power, can use a surprising amount of electricity, even when appliances and devices are “off.” Computers are among the biggest contributors to vampire loads, according to research done by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory.
Reducing your vampire load is as simple as unplugging devices when they are not in use. This is problematic, however, mostly because it requires you to remember to do it. Using power strips that are easily accessible makes it easier to accomplish.
The International Energy Agency is promoting its 1 Watt Initiative that would significantly reduce the amount of power that devices can use in standby or off modes. Actually, the initiative calls for one-half of a watt beginning in 2013. Many millions of tons of coal currently burned to power vampire loads would be saved if the various nations and industries were to adopt this standard.
Standards that limit vampire loads seem reasonable to me, though it may make navigating inside homes a bit more challenging. Perhaps I should invest in a flashlight company!