Action Guide

Flip the Switch

Difficulty: Difficulty: 1 Expense: Expense: 1 Savings: 298 lbs CO2 / $14 Bookmark and Share

Turn off lights and unplug electronics when not in use to stop costly electricity leaks.

Why You Should Do It

Why spend electricity when no one gets to use it?  Leaving lights on in empty rooms and electronics plugged in when no one is using them is a big source of wasted electricity in Minnesota homes.  Phantom load - the constant electricity leak of electronics left plugged in - costs our nation over $4 billion a year in wasted electricity!

Source: GOOD magazine

What It Costs

Turning lights off - free!  Unplugging electronics - free!  Or you can use power strips to help "unplug" multiple appliances for between $3 to more for fancier smart power strips ($20 or more).

How to Do It

  1. Select “Add to My Challenge” and pledge to turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use.
  2. Go through your apartment or house and count all the electronics left plugged in.
  3. Decide which electronics you can plug into a power strip and turn off, and which need to stay plugged in.  If you would have to reprogram something each time you turn it off, don't unplug it!
  4. Focus on your entertainment center and home office, especially your television(s) and computer(s) - they have the biggest phantom loads and cost you the most money when left plugged in.
  5. Make sure you have placed your power strips in places that are easy to reach, or purchase power strips with remotes to make it easier to turn them off.
  6. Make reminder stickers or signs to turn off lights and post them over light switches.
  7. Congratulate yourself for saving energy and money and making a difference for Minnesota!

Make It a Family Activity

TOLBY - Turn Off Lights Behind You.  Use this simple moniker coined by a Minneapolis teenager to help his family remember to turn off lights when not in use.  He created posters to go over light switches - you can have a TOLBY craft party where everyone can create their own reminder! 

Phantom Hunt.  Gather some flashlights, a pad of paper and your sense of adventure - you're on a phantom hunt!  One night go through every room of your house and turn off all the lights.  Do you see some red eyes starting back at you?  Every appliance that has a clock, uses a remote or has a little red LED light that is always on is always using energy when it's plugged in, even if it is technically turned "off."  Write down all the phantoms you find and come back with a power strip to stop their electricity leaks - or just unplug them directly if they aren't used regularly!

Create a Charger Bank.  Instead of having chargers distributed around the house, set up ONE power strip that everyone can use to charge their cell phone, music player, etc - and turn it off when no one is home!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q.

    Is there a power surge when I turn compact fluorescent light bulbs on? Shouldn’t I just leave them on all the time?

    The older versions of compact fluorescents did have a little surge of power when first turned on, but new CFLs with quick-start electronic ballasts do not have that issue.  So turn them off when you leave a room!
  • Q.

    If I unplug my Tivo/DVR/VCR, etc, I’ll just have to re-program it. So are you telling me I need to unplug this as well?

    Definitely NOT.  Only unplug or use power strips on electronics that are convenient for you to turn off, like your TV, computer, printer, stereo, etc.  If it’s going to become a huge pain for you to reprogram something every time, don’t unplug it!


  • Vijay Kapoor says:

    Changed 72% light bulbs to new CFL type lights on main floor of my home. planning to change on lower level soon.I will start un-plugging electronics not need to be plugged in.

  • mikerussell says:

    this is awesome!

  • ethanlink17 says:

    This one is pretty easy

  • says:

    It saves electricity and it will save money.

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