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Is Standby Power Costing You Money?

smart power strip energy savingAre You Wasting Money On Standby Power?

You might be surprised to learn that some – by which I mean more than a few – of the handy electrical appliances in your house are costing you money – even when you’re not using them. It’s the result of standby power losses, and these occur in every home – but thankfully you can take steps to prevent it.

Standby power, sometimes called parasitic power or vampire power, is energy that’s used by electrical and electronic devices when those devices are not in use. It’s commonly found in devices such as smartphone chargers, TVs, video recorders, games consoles, computers etc.

The trouble with many of these devices is that, even when they are “switched off”, they will continue to draw power as long as they are connected to a mains socket.

The good news is that modern electrical and electronic devices have much lower standby power requirements than those of even just a few years ago. The bad news is that we have more of these devices than ever before. Our homes are jam packed with them!

How Much Is Standby Power Costing You?

Take a moment to think about how many you have in your own home. Phone chargers, computers, TVs, cable TV boxes, video/dvd recorders, games consoles,, any device with a digital display (even if it’s just a glowing red power LED).

It’s a long, but nonetheless incomplete, list of devices. If you’re anywhere close to the average, you will probably find that you have somewhere between 40 and 80 devices – all sucking up your electricity. It varies according to house size and number of occupants of course. If you have a couple of game loving, always-texting teenagers in the family home, you will be at the upper end of that window – and quite possibly off the scale!

It’s estimated that an average family can spend over 10% – and as much as 20% – of its annual electricity bill on standby power. That’s a significant amount of money, and it would be a lot better in your pocket than your local utility company’s.



What Can You Do About Standby Power?

So what can you do to reduce the amount you spend on standby power? Well, at first glance it seems pretty easy, you just need to make sure that you switch things off when you’re not using them.

However, nothing is ever quite that simple is it? The trouble is, many devices will draw power even when they are not in use and switched off. Basically, any device which has a power supply to convert the mains AC voltage to a lower , usually DC voltage, will continue to draw power even when it’s switched off.

What you really need to do is switch it off – properly. In many cases that means turning it off at the wall socket or unplugging it completely.

Of course, there are some devices that you won’t want to do this with; those that use the standby power to power a clock or timer for example. You wouldn’t want to miss an episode of your favorite TV show because your Tivo box was unplugged!

What you really need to do is switch it off – properly. In many cases that means turning it off at the wall socket or unplugging it completely.

belkin power conserveOf course, there are some devices that you won’t want to do this with, those that use the standby power to power a clock or timer for example. You wouldn’t want to miss an episode of your favorite TV show because your Tivo box was unplugged!

As we’ve already discussed, there’s probably a long list of items in your house that are costing you money by consuming standby power. You probably don’t want to spend half an hour every time you go out or before you go to bed at night running around switching them off. And good luck getting your teenage kids to switch things off!

Fortunately that won’t be necessary. The smart way to deal with the problem is to put all of your appliances that you want to switch off completely on a power strip. Then you can switch off your appliances in groups. Don’t forget to leave the ones that need to use a timer on a separate supply.

You can even get “smart” power strips that will sense when your appliances have entered standby mode and switch them off (fully) for you. As an added bonus, most of these energy saving power strips also come with surge protection fitted – so you’ll save money and protect your valuable electrical and electronic devices at the same time!

14 Comments

  • Richard says:

    Your post on Standby Power makes interesting reading. I had no idea that even if my devices were switched off it was still using power.
    I normally unplug most appliances when I am not using it or when I am away for long periods. I will be looking at the power strips to see if is cost effective.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Richard.

      Your policy of unplugging items when not in use is a good one, so you’re probably not wasting too much money on standby power? Nevertheless, the powerstrips might make things more convenient for you – especially if you have a lot of items to unplug – and the surge protection is a nice bonus too!

  • Never think about it like that.Thanks for this site I am realy in the market for a device like that.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Loffie,

      Thanks for stopping by. You should be able to find a suitable power strip pretty eaily, either online or locally.

  • Michel says:

    These power strips look like a great idea. I had no idea that leaving a charger plugged in without the phone or device on the end was still drawing power.

    You are also right that it is not always practical to turn off all the power every time you unplug something, but it must be done if you want to save.

    I will definitely look for something equivalent to these power strips in South Africa, as the shipping costs make these devices affordable to order from the US.

    • admin says:

      HI Michel,

      Thanks for stopping by. The power strips are very handy – and you can even get “smart” ones that will turn off automatically when the devices aren’t in use. I’m sure you will be able to find something very similar in SA.

  • Jeremy Hood says:

    Even if I saved 10% of my power bill by eliminating more of this standby power that would be an extra $20-30 a month! That would easily pay for some of the outlet adapters you mention and allow me to go out to lunch a couple times a month!

    I need to go unplug a bunch of stuff in the house right now.

    • admin says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      Most people could save 10% of their household electricity bill fairly easily. Standby power, draft elimination and using low energy light bulbs are good places to start.

      Thanks for stopping by – and good luck saving a few dollars!

  • Derek Marshall says:

    Hi there,

    great article and thanks for creating and sharing it with us. Appreciated thanks.

    Using smart extension cables is actually a pretty smart way to not only save some money but to give valuable protection against power surges which is pretty handy when you live in an area that gets a lot of lightning storms!

    • admin says:

      Hi Derek,

      Yes, the smart power strips save you time and money – and they give you surge protection too. Not a bad investment when you think about it!

  • Rina says:

    Your article has helped me so much to think about how to cut down our power consumption on just our appliances alone so thank you. Now I know that I probably need the smart power strips x6 for all of the appliances we have in my household and in the various rooms. It will be interesting to see how much power we can save.

    regards

    Rina

  • Gabriela says:

    This is so smart! Our electric got so high in these last couple months. I remember hearing something about how it costs money to even have things plugged in but didn’t know it was costing that much of the bill. These things seem so neat.. It could be used for the Keurig, toaster, phone chargers, and much more!

    • admin says:

      Hi Gabriela,

      Thanks for stopping by. Plug anything that uses standby power into a smart power strip and you’ll save money. If you have to choose, start with your most energy hungry (usually the oldest) appliances first.

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