Standby power

An environmental and economic waste of money

Finding the most energy efficient electrical products is a good start for saving money and energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Most people believe that when they push or switch the POWER switch to the OFF position on an appliance that the appliance is completely switched off. For a majority of appliances this is NOT the case.

Surprisingly, an increasing number of electrical products from Computers to VCRs cannot be switched off completely, without being unplugged at the mains. These products draw power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, often without the knowledge of the consumer. We call this power consumption “standby power”. Standby power is expressed in watts (W).

Clearly, standby power adds to the energy costs incurred by a household or a business.

Let’s consider a typical home with the following appliances in standby mode:

  • 2 old television sets (10 W each) newer models (0.5 W);
  • 3 cordless telephones (2 W each);
  • Computer /scanner /modem or ADSL device /CD &/or DVD writer, and printer (24 W combined);
  • Various other appliances: such as microwave ovens, electric clocks, and hi-fi sets (20 W combined).

The average standby power used by this household is 70 W. Over the course of a 365-day year, this amounts to more than 600-kilowatt hours (kWh). It is estimated that the total bill for the year, resulting from standby power, is approx £35.00 wasted a year, which could amount to 10% – 15% of the yearly household energy bill.

This figure does not include the additional children’s electronic gaming devices, TV’s, Hi-fi’s and computers that seems to be a growing trend. Multiply this by every household & business in the country, and we are talking about a huge amount of environmental and economic waste.

Studies have estimated that residential consumers spend over £15 Billion worldwide on Standby power every year. This when added to the amount of Greenhouse Gas generated to produce this energy is a complete waste of resources we could well do without spending.

Why do we need standby power?

Although appliances require some electricity for standby functions, most standby power is consumed by inefficient power supplies and components, which do not need to be energized. This is mainly because appliance manufacturers usually do not design their products with efficiency in mind.

Some important appliance functions that do require small amounts of electricity include:

  • Maintaining signal reception capability (for remote control, telephone or network signal)
  • Monitoring temperature or other conditions (such as in a refrigerator)
  • Powering an internal clock
  • Battery charging
  • Continuous LCD display

How do we address standby power?

The most effective option is too make sure that every plug is disconnected from the mains socket whenever you have finished using the appliance for the day. This as we know is impractical, however there are devices on the market, which ensure that there is zero power to the devices when switched off.

The Power Genie is one such device, invented in Australia; it has been proved to recover its own cost over a short period of time. This product is really causing a stir in the Energy Saving market, and is being adopted by local authorities throughout Australia, as part of their ‘Saving Energy Initiative.’

It works by attaching several devices, ie TV, DVD, Stereo, reading lamp (controlled devices), to it, and nominating a master device like the VCR. So when the VCR is switched off at night, all the other devices are disconnected from the mains. This ensures that all controlled appliances are switched off, so you don’t forget; it reduces the fire risk of all the controlled appliances to zero, it extends equipment life, and reduces both energy & the resultant Greenhouse Gas emissions.

There are now many energy saving plugs on the market, but you do need to consider if the resources used in making them, and the actual power they use make them worthwhile. Are standby savers a waste of cash? The debate goes on.