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    According to recent numbers, home electronics take up 15 percent of average household's electric bill, more than double the percentage (7 percent) ten years ago. Three-quarters of that 15 percent is used by devices that are plugged in but not in use. Based on an average annual bill of $2,350 for the average family, the numbers come down to this:

    Electricity vampires in the form of not-in-use-but-still-plugged-in electronic devices suck a little over $20 per month out of the wallets of the average U.S. homeowner by way of their electric bills.

    The key word in that statement is "average." Depending on the high-tech level of your own household, those vampires may be sucking significantly more dollars from your bank account on a monthly basis.

    Your cell phone charger, video game base unit, and even your microwave click over your electric meter as long as they are connected to a power source. In fact, the standby power used by kitchen appliances with digital read outs can account for as much as 10 percent of an electricity bill. A home computer system that is left on all the time can use thousands of kilowatt hours over a year, even if it is "asleep" most of the time.

    The good news is that there is an easy and very effective way to fight electricity vampires:


    Place multi-outlet power strips strategically throughout the house and make these "electronic islands" for your gadgets and devices. Not charging cell phones right now? Hit the "off" switch on the cell phone island. When you go to bed at night, hit the switch on the entertainment island (the one where your TV, DVR, Blu-ray player, and video game unit are plugged in). Do the same with your microwave and other small and large kitchen appliances if you can. Ditto your home office.

    When creating your power strip islands, make sure you are using effective power strips. Newer strips (starting at $10) are more energy efficient than ones from previous generations. There are also "smart" power strips that show how many kilowatt hours are being used by the items plugged into them; these can be pricey, but may be worth the investment for particularly power hungry units like the components of a home entertainment center.

    Another way to fight electricity vampires is to make sure devices are configured to be most energy efficient. Computers can be set to maximize energy savings, DVRs can be set to shut off after being idle for a certain period of time. Check your owner manuals for the electronic devices around the house to see if there are ways to configure them for less electricity use.

    Energy vampires don't have to suck money from you. Get those power strips set up, reconfigure your devices, and then keep track of your electric bill. You should see a noticeable difference in the number!