Q. Dear Twig: My brother said there are energy vampires. True?
A. True. But not in a Dracula sense. In a "I'm a plug-in device like a TV set and I'll slurp up electricity even when you think I'm turned off" sense. Ahhh! Energy vampire!
"Energy vampire" is a made-up term that some people use. They use it to describe an electrical appliance that keeps on using electricity — energy — even after you hit the "off" switch.
For example, say, you turn off the TV. (Always good to practice this! Yes! Yes!). The screen goes blank. The power light goes from green to red. But the TV stays in a "standby" mode. This lets it come on right away after you've done all your homework and asked your mom or dad very politely if you can turn it back on again, please? ("Go out and play, dear.")
Why care about energy vampires? Because they eat up about 5 percent of all the electricity used in the United States, equal to a super-huge extra electrical bill of more than $3 billion a year.
So fighting energy vampires can save us money. And it can help cut pollution, too. Powerplants, which give off pollution, don't have to work as hard!
P.S. How to stop an energy vampire: Pull the plug. Or use a power strip; turn it off that way.
Notes: The $3 billion a year figure comes from the Energy Information Administration (IEIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) puts the figure at more than $5 billion a year. Sources included the EIA "Energy Kids' Page," http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/classactivities/energyarticles.html#energyvampires; UCS, http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/greentips/energy-vampires.html; and the Web site "Grinning Planet," http://www.grinningplanet.com/2004/10-26/vampire-power-electricity-article.htm.
About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.