GOOD

Because Science Matters: A Deep Dive into the Phenomenon of Vampire Draw


The phenomenon of “vampire draw” or “vampire load” or “vampire power” or “Kristen Stewart wall lightning” has been covered often and covered well here and by other forward-thinking, energy-conscious, media outlets. Therefore, for the benefit of readers who may be unfamiliar with the phrase, I’ll only give this abbreviated summary of the phenomenon before moving on: vampire draw is the pet name for the electrical power your electronics consume when they are switched off. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average American household is wasting $100 worth of energy per year—a small amount per household, but collectively a gigantic waste of vital resources.

If you’d like to save money and energy by combatting this phenomenon, read this article here or do a web search for “vampire load”—without giggling. Your search will be handsomely rewarded.


Instead of covering what’s already been covered—and because GOOD readers are sexy fact-devouring knowledge-monsters—let’s dig into the science behind vampire draw so that the next time your parents say, “Yeah, but WHY do they draw power if they’re off...AND how would you know anyway, Mr. Unemployed English Major?” you can serve up this big old steaming cup of “in your face!”

Here are some quick basics. Electricity is the flow of electrons. Electrons—along with protons and neutrons—are the building blocks of atoms. Atoms combine in different configurations to create molecules. Molecules combine to create everything on Earth—air, salt, water, Kristen Stewart, etc. Electrons “flow” when they jump from one atom to the next through whatever material in which they happen to be. Some materials—like wood—are made up of molecules that have a strong bond to their electrons—restricting flow and making themselves poor conductors of electricity. Some materials—like copper—are made up of atoms with free electrons that flow more easily, making them excellent conductors of electricity.

Molecules strongly prefer having a certain number of electrons at one time. If one electron is given to a molecule, one must leave. If one electron is added to one side of a chain of molecules, one will leave, if it possibly can, to maintain the status quo. For example, if you filled a garden hose with ping pong balls, and then pushed one more ball into one end of the hose—instantly, a ball would pop out at the other end of the tube. Thus, if you push an electrical current (flowing electrons) into a 1,000-mile copper powerline, that electrical current would instantly flow from the other side. A wire is electrified or it isn’t—there is no in between.

Now, on to vampire draw. There are two types of vampire draw: one type lies to you (and breaks your mortal heart) and the other type hides from you (and makes you desperate for the cold touch of the undead).

The lying type of vampire draw is simple to explain and eliminate. When your electronics tell you they are off, they are not. Your TV is “off” but still using electricity to listen for your remote control. Unplug your TV.

The more interesting type of vampire draw hides from you as though you were the frigid Queen of the Volturi. Appliances that have no digital clock, no remote control, no “standby” mode, and no discernable reason to consume power, still do. The reason comes down to the nature of electricity and “no-load losses.”

Think of your home electrical outlet as a firehose of electricity. Open the value by plugging a conductive material into the surprised little face socket—now, there’s some pareidolia for you—and you’ll release an electrical alternating current (AC) pressurized at 120 volts. Your computer, phone, modem, router, printer, and Twilight adult novelty items, however, do not need 120 volts of current (a firehose-amount of power, as your big screen TV does). They only need 12 volts of electrical direct current (DC) power. To account for the difference, each device has (what is normally) a small black cube of a power adapter that does two things: using a transformer, it depressurizes the current (“slows” it within the adapter from 120 volts to 12 volts), and using a rectifier it converts it from alternating current (AC)—where the current’s electrical charge flips flops between a positive charge and a negative charge—to direct current (DC)—where the electrical charge is constantly positive or negative.

Both of these transformations incur losses of usable power—creating friction and waste heat. And, because the circuitry within the adapters has opened the pressurized valve that is your wall socket and is allowing electricity to “leak” out, this inefficient power conversion process occurs whenever the adapter is plugged into the wall—whether the end-device is connected to it or not.

So, to make a long story short: unplug your adapters. And for the record, I do not own any Twilight novelty devices. You do.

Illustration by Fatim Hana

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics