(First published March 2007, updated August 2012)
You can reduce your electricity bills by as much as 10% – simply by unplugging appliances or switching devices off at the power point they are connected to when not in use. It’s good for your wallet and for our planet.
I first published this article back in 2007, but after reading some relatively recent reports, it seems the issue of standby power consumption still isn’t on many people’s radars.
Standby, also known as phantom or vampire, power loads are responsible for an incredible amount of electricity consumption around the world.
Practically every electronic device you plug into a socket continues to consume electricity after you’ve switched the device off. Examples include phone chargers, notebook power adaptors, microwave ovens, game consoles CD and DVD players.
A signal that an appliance is using standby power is a lit led or operational digital readout of course, but sometimes gadgets and gizmos can be sipping power on the sly. If an appliance or device has an external adaptor, the easiest way to tell if it’s still drawing power when the device is switched off is if the adaptor is warm. If there is no external adaptor, to determine if it’s using standby power you’ll need to check the appliance’s manual or contact the manufacturer.
While the amount of power being drawn by appliances in standby mode * usually* isn’t huge – anything from .5 – 5 watts per hour; when you consider the number of electronics devices in the average home these days and multiply that by the number of hours in a year; then multiply that by the number of households in your country – it really adds up.
The average home in the USA consumes about 1.2kWh of standby power daily. I’ve read the annual collective standby power draw from households in the USA is around 8 gigawatts – equivalent to the electricity production of eight large power plants.
This standby power is costly too. A study carried out in the UK in 2010/2011 found households spent between £50 (USD $77) and a whopping £861 (USD $1,337) on electricity for appliances in a standby state.
Globally, standby power consumption is estimated to be responsible for about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Using the US example of 1.2 kilowatt hours daily, standby power consumption equates to approximately 500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year per household where the electricity is generated primarily through the burning of coal. With coal still accounting for around 40% of the USA’s energy generation; this adds up to many millions of tonnes of standby power related emissions annually.
We could knock 1% of the amount of carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere just by switching appliances and devices off at the wall when not in use and all save a few bucks (or many it would appear in some cases) on each power bill in the process. It seems like a low hanging piece of fruit worth plucking!
Pick up some more tips on saving electricity.