# Vampire load surprise - garage door openers

I've been on a tear of late to eliminate or minimize standby loads. This arises from data revealing that during spring and fall, when HVAC use is minimal, standby loads comprise 25%, 5 kwh / day of our home's total usage.

5 kwh / day exceeds the total usage of our entire kitchen - fridge, chest freezer, range, dishwasher, etc.

At national average electric rates of \$0.11 / kwh, each Watt of standby usage works out to a buck a year, so the sneaky little loads add up fast.

An early victory came in the form of learning that the starting battery trickle charger on our standby genny consumes 30-35 Watts. A \$40, 10 Watt PV panel from Amazon has allowed me to kill that load while still maintaining the genny's cranking battery.

We have 3 garage door openers, specifically Overhead Door Phantoms. They are quiet and have been relatively trouble-free. Imagine my shock at learning each uses 14.5 Watts while sitting and doing nothing.

Doing the math, the three (aptly named) Phantoms have cost us \$200 in standby power since we built the house in early 2008.

Thoughts, anyone?

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### Replies to This Discussion

Those are all good thoughts, including the remarks about not impairing the safety of the system.

People have proposed no-energy garage door openers where the weight of a car on the driveway and a hydraulic system would power the door to open and close.  Is anyone capable of estimating whether the cost of such a system would be worth the energy savings?  One complication is that safety regulations require a garage door to have an automatic reversal system and I wonder how a hydraulic system would be capable of automatic reversal.

One thing about energy efficiency is that there is no free lunch.
The energy needed to overcome the friction in the door mechanism must come from somewhere.  In the case of the electric opener, the energy comes from the electricity.  In the case of the hydraulic opener, it would presumably come from a car driving up onto a ramp which lowers slightly to displace some hydraulic fluid.  In that latter case the energy comes from the gasoline.  Given all the friction in hydraulic systems, I doubt that overall efficiency is better, though it does seem clever and must offer other benefits.

If the real advantage of the hydraulic system is that is has no "standby" losses when there is no car around, perhaps I can modify your proposal.  Let's stick with the electrical system, but to save energy when it is not needed, let's embed a switch in the driveway that only makes the system operable when a car is placed on top of it.  That way there is no standby losses except when you need it, i.e. when you place a car in front of the driveway.

I know it has some flaws like a person wanting to use the door opener.

Really, I think it is technically possible to make a garage door opener that only uses 0.1 watts when on standby like modern TVs, it is just that no one has done it yet.

I wouldn't sweat the mechanical energy consumed by the operator in action - maybe 200 Watts one minute per day (2 each 15 second opening and closing cycles). That works out to 1.2 kwh / year, a truly trivial cost.

Getting standby consumption to below 1 Watt is a laudable goal. All it would take is an Energy Star standard requiring same.

If you are able to get schematics from vendor.... and have the skills... you could split the receiver and motor into two different circuits... leave the bulky transformer for the motor.  Possibly make some changes so when ever the door is "open" even partially - the line voltage to that bulky transformer is always there... power the receiver separately... use an ELK timer such that when receiver is triggered..line connection to the transformer is enabled for ten minutes.  After which it disconnects - unless it is "partially open"

That would address safety problems ... and probably let you drop the vampire loads to under a 1W when idle....

Elk time delay relay... note -- these only handle smaller loads - the bulky transformer can not be directly connected to one of these relays.  But there are other time delay relays that might also work (non Elk brand).

http://www.elkproducts.com/product-catalog/elk-960-delay-timer-module

I appreciate that analysis...sounds like a lot of work!

Conservatory Roof Insulation Systems

I'm pleased to see this category of phantoms given some attention as well as being able to provide useful data for discussion.

Kudos to Ron Brogle and Liftmaster for contributing to this discussion and offering products that address the problem. All my home energy audit reports contain information about phantom loads. I will add specific advice about garage door openers. My own trio comprise about 25% of my total phantom load, an outsized chunk given the total number of phantoms 5 fully wired people have in our home.

Moving on to other phantoms - I have refused to activate our doorbell's transformer. I'm tempted to order and post a placard reading "knock, remove headgear, wait for permission to enter", but I doubt I'd be allowed that.

Here is a non-"kosher" thought…..

It has been mentioned in a limited context, but if it is done on a larger scale, it solves the problem.

If your circumstances allow (shading, roof condition and space, \$\$ to do it), get solar PV, and if at all possible, make it an off-grid system with batteries so that (here's the non "kosher" part) you don't have to care about 4 watts here or 5 watts there.   You get to keep your lifestyle, your electricity is free, and it does not hurt the environment.   A "mini" system would be economically easy to pay for, and could power all the little vampire loads we all are talking about and obsessing over…. You'd have to do a little re-wiring of your circuit breakers to isolate the circuits that had these loads to the mini-solar PV Off-Grid system, but if you're committed enough to dealing with them, you could do it.

Of course, if you live in a townhouse like I do, you are S.O.L. with solar PV on your roof.

Ira

House is pretty much surrounded by trees.

Personally, I have solar, but I still hate vampire loads with a passion.

Wow, I'm impressed that this one is still going. I've been thinking about it some more. As an electrician I have tried to boil it down a bit. Almost without fail, vampire loads are a concession to convenience. Being able to simply push a button and have some appliance begin working relatively promptly is something we have come to expect. I could install a relatively simple 3-way switch setup for my garage door opener power that would entirely eliminate it's "at idle" consumption but would it lose codes or programming? Does my wife really want to get out of her car in a rain storm to flick a switch and push a button? Personally, I would be willing to get out of my car, unlock the garage door with a key, and manually lift it open, but my garage door doesn't even have a handle. Maybe I could invent that!

Nah - I no longer buy the convenience vs vampire argument...not with today's high efficiency switching power supplies and other power electronics.

Energy hogging phantoms happen via a combination of lack of awareness and oversight and corporations relentlessly pursuing the quarterly bottom line at the long term expense of their unknowing clients. Products that slide beneath regulatory and public information radar get away with crappy, low first cost designs. These garage door openers are a classic example.

Sometimes an evil monopoly or oligarchy is involved - look at how piggy many settop cable boxes are! Monopolistic cable companies resist spending the extra buck or two to do the right thing.

Back in the day, automobile manufacturers insisted that the most basic regulations, such as seat belts and safety glass would force them into bankruptcy, never mind fuel economy mandates. Then Asian manufacturers ate their lunch, and they changed their tune.

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