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Earth Day Project Idea #5: Phantom Power

Appliances may be the largest objects in a house and the most visible signs of electricity consumption, but today's typical household uses a constant flow of electricity to power all the gadgets and conveniences that have become, for many of us, a way of life. There has been growing awareness and discussion of the continuous drain on electricity that happens even when you think you've turned a system "off." Many standard items go into a low-power or standby mode when you click "off" - which means they continue to use power. In March, when people around the world joined together to power down for a single hour (Earth Hour), warnings went out that plugs needed to be pulled and electrical strips shut off. Because our systems keep time, follow our recording interests, hook into local networks for updates, and so on, it takes more than just pressing the "power" button. There is a reality to an "always-on" society. The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article entitled "Putting a plug on the drain gang: The electricityslurpers in your techno home," which offers eye-opening statistics on what is often termed vampire power. The problem is also referred to as phantom power or leaking electricity.

This Science Buddies science fair project idea moves beyond the discussion and gives student a blueprint for recording and measuring the impact of phantom power.

Science Buddies Project Idea
    Spare a Watt, Save a Lot

    How much energy do you save by turning off your computer? Or unplugging your toaster at night? This project will help you find out!

    Science Buddies difficulty level: 4-5

    Duration: a couple of weeks

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