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Does Having Appliances on Standby Use Power?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 28 Mar 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Electricity Electrical Electrical Power

You might think that when you switch an electrical appliance off, it uses no power, but you could not be more wrong. Many appliances now have a 'standby' function that allows them to be turned on again quickly, without starting up from scratch. The appliances that have a standby facility tend to use electrical power when they are apparently off. Some use more than others.

The worst culprits are appliances that have black cubes in their power lead, between the appliance and the plug. This is responsible for converting AC electricity into DC electricity and the sensors and circuitry inside this box need to monitor what is happening with the device more or less constantly. This uses varying amounts of power, depending on what type of appliance it is, how old it is and the way it has been designed.

What Appliances Use Stand by Power?

A very wide range – anything that has an LED – such as a washing machine that is still on after the washing cycle has finished. Something that has a display that is always on – like the clock on a microwave or standard oven. Anything with the black box power supply often called a 'vampire', between the appliance and the plug. And anything that has a remote control. Worryingly, some equipment that has none of these things and shows no signs of using any power still has a standby function and burns up quite a few extra watts of power when you think it isn't doing anything. The only way to tell is to buy a meter to measure energy usage.

How Much Power Does Standby Use?

It varies between different pieces of equipment but the major problem is not each individual device. It is the cumulative effect of all the appliances that we all have in our homes that may be using electricity without us knowing. It is easy to have about 50 such appliances (scary – but just count them up...) and each one may only be using £3 of power per year – but that is £150 per year for all of them, which is quite a sizeable sum for pieces of equipment that are doing nothing.

How Can I Save Standby Power?

This is quite tricky but with a few simple steps it is possible to reduce overall standby power usage by about a quarter. Unplugging equipment that is not in use regularly (in case you forget and leave it in standby for weeks at a time). Using multi-plus with switches, so that you can disconnect everything at once. Use a power adaptor that takes several appliances, and switch them all off at once when you switch the unit off. Don't leave mobile phones charging once their charge is complete – and turn off the empty charger. Buy low energy standby appliances – its getting easier - but you will need to do your research before selecting your appliance.

How Much Does Standby Power Cost the UK?

This is very difficult to measure accurately, but the overall percentage of all domestic electricity used probably uses around 15% for standby functions. Having appliances on standby may account for about one hundredth of all carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere globally.

What are Some Examples of Standby Power?

A mobile phone charger, plugged into a fully charged phone uses 2 watts (1.8p per month) – a phone that is charging uses 3 watts (2.7p per month), so there is not much difference. Just having the power supply plugged in, without any phone, uses 0.25 watts. A computer display in full use gobbles up 65 watts (68p per month) – but still uses 12 watts when in sleep mode (10p per month). When off it uses 0.8 watts (<1p per month). Some laser printers actually uses more power in standby mode – 6.4 watts on ready and only 6.1 when fully on. A cordless phone uses 2.8 watts when the handset is in place and ready to use, but only 1.9 watts when you are actually on the phone.

Some of these are relatively small sums but if you add them up throughout a typical household there are large savings to be made on an annual basis by turning appliances off (or unplugging them) rather than putting them into standby!

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Poppy - Your Question:
I have a new Smeg range cooker which appears to be using £14.00 per month of electricity with only the clock running (that's none of the hobs or ovens turned on). Does anyone else have this problem?And why?Meg - 11-Jan-16 @ 1:54 PMHi Meg - we seem to have the same problem. It seems to be using 250 watts just in standby mode. Have you had any feedback or advice on this?Seems rediculous!

Our Response:
Have you contacted Smeg about this? They may be able to offer some way of turning the clock off or the brightness down etc.
EnergySavingSecrets - 16-Mar-16 @ 2:25 PM
I have a new Smeg range cooker which appears to be using £14.00 per month of electricity with only the clock running (that's none of the hobs or ovens turned on). Does anyone else have this problem?And why? Meg - 11-Jan-16 @ 1:54 PM Hi Meg - we seem to have the same problem. It seems to be using 250 watts just in standby mode. Have you had any feedback or advice on this? Seems rediculous!
Poppy - 15-Mar-16 @ 9:28 PM
I have a new Smeg range cooker which appears to be using £14.00 per month of electricity with only the clock running (that's none of the hobs or ovens turned on). Does anyone else have this problem?And why?
Meg - 11-Jan-16 @ 1:54 PM
Jay - Your Question:
How about central heating boilers? These use both electricity and gas to give "constant hot water" when actually some of us don't need this. the boiler can be heard churning away, when there's no water or heating required. If it is off at the mains switch then obviously the timer won't control the boiler and the house is cold first thing in the morning. Left on overnight to get a warm home and the boiler churns away all night. The "constant hot water" cannot be switched off despite not being needed. WASTE.

Our Response:
A combi boiler is the answer to this problem. It only heats water (for hot water tap or radiators) when needed.
EnergySavingSecrets - 26-Oct-15 @ 12:18 PM
How about central heating boilers? These use both electricity and gas to give "constant hot water" when actually some of us don't need this. the boiler can be heard churning away, when there's no water or heating required. If it is off at the mains switch then obviously the timer won't control the boiler and the house is cold first thing in the morning. Left on overnight to get a warm home and the boiler churns away all night. The "constant hot water" cannot be switched off despite not being needed. WASTE.
Jay - 22-Oct-15 @ 12:28 PM
@margaretjune richards. This is a bit of a problem with many instruments that need to be left on because of tuning or recording implications. New EU regulations however do specify that all electrical products (sold within the EU after 2010) cannot have a standby power greater than 1W. If the 3 boxes are new therefore, their combined usage will be about 25kWh in a year - so not nearly as much as an old style TV for example.
EnergySavingSecrets - 15-Jul-15 @ 12:14 PM
I have 3 sky boxes in my house 2 are bieng used just now ,concerned about the amount ie cost to my bills ,have slways turned tv,s off to save on bills but have been told it can csuse problems starting box up again
margaret june richar - 10-Jul-15 @ 8:16 PM
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