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11appliances unplugged /mb/ab

Life, unplugged

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

More than a year ago, Anita Flesher began a new electricity-saving regime in her home. The Rochester mother began unplugging nearly all of her appliances.

Toasters, the blender, the coffee maker, alarm clocks and televisions, all bedside lamps and living room lamps — everything was unplugged when not in use.

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Within months of adopting the strategy, Flesher began seeing a dramatic impact on the household electrical bill. From a high of $158 a month, her Rochester Public Utilities bill fell to $99 a month — a savings of more than a third of what she used to pay.

"I was thrilled," said Flesher, who lives in a southwest Rochester home with her four daughters. "I’m not like a go-green kind of gal or anything like that. But I do hate to spend money on things that I can’t have in hand."

The phenomenon of "vampire power" is getting more attention these days. The phrase describes how electronic devices continue to draw power even when turned off. While the amount of power is not a lot, it can add up, given the proliferation of household gadgets, including televisions, computers and cordless phones.

"There are things like cellphone chargers, that sort of stuff that will draw electricity," said Tony Benson, RPU’s communications coordinator.

Benson said RPU offers customers a device called a Kill A Watt meter that they can take home to measure the amount of electricity a given product is using when it is off.

The amount of energy used by a plugged-in, idle appliance or device ranges from product to product. For instance, a plugged-in microwave adds an estimated monthly cost of 21 cents per month to a residential customer’s bill, according to RPU. A coffee pot adds 6 cents; a standard VCR adds 25 cents.

The kind of savings Flesher has been able to rack up suggests how enthusiastically she and her daughters embraced this new energy-saving lifestyle.

"It was pretty easy right off the bat," Flesher said. "The main thing that (my daughters) were forgetting probably was to unplug their cell phones in the morning."

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In the process, Flesher and her family have grown used to things that others might consider an inconvenience. It’s not unusual for them to sit in the dark with the light of the television screen as their only source of illumination. Flesher washes clothes only on Monday, usually four or five loads. For the remainder of the week, the washer and dryer are unplugged.

"That, I think, is huge, because I have so many of my friends saying that they wash a couple of loads every day, and I’m sure they even leave them plugged in for the remainder of the time," Flesher said.

But the measures didn’t stop there. Flesher keeps her furnace turned off from March through November and doesn’t run air-conditioning all summer, no matter how sweltering the conditions. That accounted for another $100 in monthly savings. She said the family has been known to relax the rules on occasion, when, for instance, the family entertains people for Thanksgiving.

"My kids thought, ‘You know what? It might be a little cold for the average person,’" Flesher said.

There are some exceptions. The kitchen refrigerator and stove remain plugged, as does the basement refrigerator. A large entertainment center with DVD player and Nintendo player are plugged into a power strip that is turned off when not in use.

During an interview, Flesher chuckled a couple of times as she described what many might view as her extreme measures. But Flesher is a convert, a true believer in the potential savings of her strategy.

"I talk about it all the time," Flesher said. "A lot of them say, ‘You’re kidding me. What do you do (to get that kind of savings)?’"

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