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Phantom Load: Leave Your Modem Alone

12 March 2010

I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed with phantom load…but it’s something that I think about, a lot.  Phantom load is basically like having a leaking faucet in your home, but instead of leaking water, you are leaking electricity – constantly!  Most electronics, if plugged in, are always using energy even if they are turned “off.”  This includes anything with a clock, anything that uses a remote and anything with a little blinking LED light.  So in my apartment, I have all my electronics on power strips – everything except my clock radio and fridge – and I turn them off every morning when I leave for work and every night when I go to sleep.

Except now, it seems that I need to add one more thing to the ‘always on’ list – my modem. In the past year I have burned through two different modems, and after a long (and very helpful) conversation with a customer support guy at Comcast (thank you, Andrew!), we decided that the reason my modems keep dying and leaving me without a good internet connection is that I am constantly switching them on and off.  It appears that the modems just aren’t handling that well.

So, while you should definitely unplug or use a power strip for your TV, computer, microwave, etc., it might be a good idea to leave your modem plugged in and on at all times.  If you’ve had a different experience, let me know!

Edit:  Some feedback from the Facebook Fan Page:

Not my experience thus far. When we installed our modem, I specifically asked if it should be left on all the time, or turned off periodically, like overnight. The technician told me it is good to turn them off to give them a rest/ prevent overheating. We turn ours off overnight most nights, and sometimes during the day if we know we’ll all be … See Moregone a while. So, when you said “constantly” turning yours off – how often was that? We have had no trouble with the modem we’ve had since last summer.

PHANTOM LOAD is HUGE. Since power stripping our TV, gaming systems, and computer, we have dropped from 300KWH/mo. to 200KWH/mo. – Glenn

Not my experience either. I shut my off every night and haven’t had any problems. The only thing that comes to mind is that some electronics may have problems if you are relying solely on the power strip to turn offthe equipment. You can run into problems if equipment is in the process of transferring data (such as software updates) and you pull the plug. Be sure that you turn off all equipment first and then use the power strip to eliminate phantom load.  – Keith

:: The Minnesota Energy Challenge: Flip the Switch

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