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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Hi Curt,

I would be tempted to contact the mfg.  Computer mfg used to waste a ton of energy in the standby mode until pushed to make improvements.  I would assume their remote control box is the culprit.

One thought would be a fourth control, a master, that would operate with a much lower standby load and would essentially power up the other three.  Hit your new master and then all three openers are active as normal.  After a period of time with no use, they master would power down all three units until needed.  It would provide a little extra safety as someone with your remote control codes would no longer have access to your doors, no power.


Come to find out, the Phantom model is discontinued.

I hoped to try retrofitting a more efficient low voltage transformer perhaps, but these beasts have 180 VA 12 VAC transformers...no easy match. The transformers are physically huge, bigger than the motors themselves, and, naturally, run warm. Keeping all that iron warm no doubt causes the inordinate standby load.

My guess is that the mfg would happily offer newer models, but no discount. I may try them, but I'm not optimistic. I have zero faith in large corporations acting ethically.

A second remote would be complex and unpopular with my spouse. Whatever solution I come up with needs to be transparent to her. Frankly, I wouldn't want any extra hassle there either.

I think I'm SOL until these things die of natural causes.

Maybe there is hope for an out-of-box solution...according to an online manual, these units' motors are DC - the big transformers are coupled with rectifiers to produce 12 VDC.

That circumstance may lend itself to another PV / battery solution.

I'm not sure the "ethical" reference is fair. That is akin to expecting GE to discount a new efficient refrigerator because your model designed in the late '90's did not foresee the EE movement.

The Phantom does have a DC motor, that is in part why it's quiet and why there is such a big transformer. But, like all operators, the Phantom has photo-cells at the base of the door to provide federally mandated safety standards. Additionally, the wall switch is constantly on; as I recall, it monitors the unit, and yes the radio receiver must be on the alert for a signal to operate.

The wall switch has a "vacation switch" on the top that cuts off radio operation. I don't think it shuts down the entire unit, but you may want to test it to see how much is saved.  

One note, albeit minor. The operator has 2- 100 watt bulbs that operate for about 5 minutes per operation. 

Some additional items to know about garage door operators. Although there are many manufacturers & brands, the overwhelming majority are made by two companies.

Overhead Door Corporation owns Genie. As far as I know, they are the only two brands you will see from this manufacturer. Remote controls and other parts are often interchangeable as long as you are within the model, and know what to look for. Remotes & keypads are especially widely interchangeable.

The Chamberlain Group sells under it's own name, but does a great deal of private label work. Primarily Sears/Craftsman, Liftmaster, Wayne Dalton, and others. These, too are interchangeable among many brands & models.

Many homeowners use their garage door as an entrance to their home-and a surprising number actually forget that they have a key to their front door hanging from the ignition. ( I know first hand from panicked phone calls.)

Chamberlain made a big step a few years ago that was ahead of ODC. They came out with a battery backup unit for power outages. This in particular may be another thing to look for in terms of vampire loads-it's a double whammy; the trickle charge of a generator, and the opener itself. The backup unit will be separate from the operator.

Interesting info - thank you for compiling and sharing it.

I stand by my remarks on corporate ethics. I'm not big on overly intrusive government, but it seems that unless and until Energy Star shines a light on a class of appliances, they merrily go about their energy-hogging ways while the typical consumer is oblivious. Worse, some "game" the tests...look at the LG fridge door heater flap.

I'm certainly not looking for a handout, but I do question the ethics of selling models with such high standby loads to unwitting consumers. We bought these things in 2008, not 1968, so I disdain the argument that energy efficiency didn't matter at the time of purchase.

We did our best to select high efficiency products for the house, and Overhead Door has (had, in my mind, anyway) a good reputation. This one snuck past me, and I'm displeased.

I expect garage door openers to have a certain standby load for the reasons you cite. In fact I found standby power test data from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab:

Garage Door Opener
Ready 4.48 1.8 7.3 34

LBL has data from 34 units averaging 4.48 Watts in the "ready" mode, minimum 1.8, maximum 7.3. (Apparently, Phantoms escaped testing, since my measurements have them at 2x the LBL max)

As to the drive unit lights, I have long since retrofitted the unit's incandescent bulbs with CFL. None have failed, despite vibration.

If Phantoms are truly all 12 VDC downstream of the lights, then it should be possible to power all 3 of mine with a single AGM battery coupled to either a 5 Watt or so trickle charger or small PV panel. That upgrade would confer the additional benefit of operating during a power outage.

In my particular case, the garage door opener is plugged into the overhead light.  WHen i turn off the power to the light at the light switch, the garage door opener will not operate until the light switch is turned back on.  Could you set your system up to operate on a switch?

I guess they don't call those garage door openers "Phantoms" for nothing ;)

Interesting post.  I recently bought a Sears opener with battery back up and wifi access.  The "assurelink" has it's own inverter and a green and a blue LED running 24/7. 

Sigh, I don't even want to put the "kill-a-watt" to that, much less the opener. 

Thanks for the heads up on the garage door opener phantom load, Curt - I never thought of that one. 

I just measured one of my Python 2 garage door openers (made by Overhead Door) and it uses 4.6 to 4.8 watts on standby (measured with my Kill-a-Watt meter).  Assuming the other opener is about the same, that accounts for almost 10 watts of standby from the garage doors.

Another big one is my Verizon FIOS box with battery backup:  there is a constant 15 watt draw there.  If you disconnect the battery, you end up with 7.5 watts.  No great loss there since, despite Verizon's claims of an 8 hour battery life, mine never worked for more than about 1/2 hour, even when it was brand new.  And don't bother trying to get anywhere with Verizon - they are much too clueless to care about this stuff (don't get me started on their horrendous website!).

One more surprising user was my gas stove (Kenmore, approx 10-12 yrs old): approximately 12 watts normally but only 9 watts when the burners are locked out (apparently the solenoid that hold the gas valve open uses 3 watts).

I had checked most of my electronic equipment - stereo, TV, VCR, DVD player and computer - and those that were over 2-3 watts have been put on power strips.

My garage door openers connect to receptacles hard wired to the electric panel - no switch

If I installed a switch that would eliminate the standby load, but I'd be in deep trouble with my wife who expects the garage door to open upon command as she rolls up to it.

Our TV is well-behaved as to standby load, but I'll admit I haven't checked the internet gear...it would be way too much hassle to turn it off and on as folks come and go.

My personal and company strategy is to devise ways to save energy WITHOUT lifestyle changes / sacrifices, so as with everything else, I'll need a work-around transparent to users.

It's our lifestyle which is destroying the planet. If we don't drastically reduce our material standard of living, then there will be nothing for our grandchildren but hopes and wishes (and contempt for their forbears).

I agree with you, Robert.

But shaming people - even when it is probably deserved - rarely works, unless it is done by religion - then it seems to work too well!

I try a shame/encouragement strategy as follows: My grandparents lived through the Great Depression and my parents lived through World War II, when real sacrifices were asked of people and everyone chipped in.  I end with the observation that today we have so many more creature comforts and conveniences -not to mention medical advances and other amazing things -that the Greatest Generation could never dream of - and yet they died for us to protect our freedom.  Their sacrifice demands the we recognize that with freedom come responsibility, including not being overly-indulgent.

What would they think if they saw us today?

Not particularly well written - but you get the point.

[Aside: has anyone seen the WWII poster encouraging gasoline conservation with a silhouette of Hitler in the passenger's seat of a car next to the driver and the caption "When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler"? Check it out here:


Powerful - but would it work today?]


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