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Best Way to Reduce Electricity Consumption - Turning Off Appliances on Standby

Updated on January 17, 2017
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Eugene is a qualified control/instrumentation engineer Bsc (Eng) and has worked as a developer of electronics & software for SCADA systems.


Reduce Phantom Energy Consumption

Did you know that some appliances, e.g. TVs, use up to 30% of the energy while on standby that they use while fully turned on? Anything with a little "red eye" LED can be sucking power while asleep.
This is sometimes called vampire or phantom power and if you have a lot of gadgets and appliances, the energy usage can mount up.

To Do....

Photo of traditional main switch

Photo of modern power switch button

Photo of apliance showing red light + caption "I'm a vampire!"

Main Power Switch on Appliances

In the old days everything had a power switch. This included desktop PCs, TVs etc. The switch was connected to the incoming power line so when you switched off, the power consumption was zilch because everything was totally switched off.

Vampire Power - Pull the Plug and Cut Down on Your Electricity Consumption

Nowadays many devices don't have a mains switch. Instead a momentary push button is used and this controls whether the appliance is fully powered up or on standby. When a user presses the button, embedded software within the device detects the press and forces it to power up or go into standby. Alternatively in devices without microprocessors or micro-controllers, pressing the button forces the electronics into a low power state. The electronics which monitors this button uses some power, however the majority of the energy usage is due to the fact that a device is on standby and its power supply is active

Typical energy monitoring device (note this particular adapter has a UK socket)
Typical energy monitoring device (note this particular adapter has a UK socket) | Source

What Devices are "Vampires"

TVs, HIFI systems, video recorders, DVD recorders/players, Blu-ray players, surround sound systems, satellite and terrestrial decoders, computer printers etc.
Basically anything which uses an LED indicator (usually red) to show that it is asleep and in standby mode. If an appliance can be switched off using a remote control, electronic circuitry must be active in order to detect the infra-red signal from the remote when someone switches the appliance back on again. This circuitry uses energy but other circuitry may also be enabled so that the device powers up quickly when switched on.
Even if a device cannot be put into standby, it may still consume electricity. So for instance microwave ovens or anything else with a clock or other type of display falls into this category. The consumption of electricity by the display electronics may be quite small however and the only way you can check is by using an energy monitoring adapter. You can read about these on my hub here:

Even if standby power of an individual device is relatively low, if you have lots of appliances and gadgets plugged in, energy wastage over time can mount up.

Keeping Away the Vampires

What can you do to prevent this waste of energy? Simply pull the plug on appliances at night or when there is no need to have them switched. Also check with an energy monitoring adapter whether the electricity consumption is significant.

What is the Disadvantage of Pulling the Plug on Appliances?

Well basically some older devices such as video recorders may lose their time and date setting on the display. Newer devices often have a back up battery which preserves the time.
Satellite and terrestrial decoder boxes may take anything between 10 and 30 seconds to scan and save channel settings when re-powered.


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    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 4 years ago from New York

      Very interesting..

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 2 years ago from Texas

      Interesting! I thought that anything plugged in sucked electricity and should be unplugged. I didn't realize that the biggest vampires are the ones with the red lights.

      Several years ago, I heard about becoming unplugged, and only plug them in when needed. It has definitely made a difference in my electricity bill!

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

      Older stuff had switches which actually did cut the power. Many of these new fangled appliances have electronics which use power constantly. It might be only a little, but if you add up all the power drain of appliances in the home (which may be powered up 24 x 7), it can amount to substantial consumption over a year.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 24 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      This is an excellent article. Good information for the most frugal among us. I am always alarmed by the lights going on my router box at night. Like you said, the inconvenience is a few minutes of reset time. Excellent.

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 24 months ago from Ireland

      Thanks for the comments Lilly!

      As an example, one of my digital terrestrial TV decoder boxes uses about 11 watts of power. This only drops to 7 watt on standby. If the box is on standby for 12 hours then total energy consumption = 7 x 12 x 365 /1000 = 30 kWh per year. It mightn't be much, but if you have a dozen or so devices, the cost can accumulate. In any case, it's wise to unplug appliances at night or when you have vacated your home. There are lots of stories of phone chargers, clothes driers and other appliances catching fire when unattended.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 21 months ago

      This is interesting, I did not know this. I think my biggest problem is that so many of my things are plugged in behind furniture, it takes feats of strength & acrobatics to try and get at them, so I never bother. Is there any other way? An extension maybe (then disconnect the plug from the extension while leaving the extension in the wall)?

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 21 months ago from Ireland

      You could use a socket strip (which are available with 3, 4, or even 6 outlets). If the strip is switched, the switch end of the strip could poke out behind the back of the furniture so you can switch it off. Make sure you don't plug lots of high powered appliances into the strip and potentially overload it (e.g. heaters). All TV, radio, DVD, set top box and other such appliances are low power.

      Another option is to replace the outlet on the wall with a switched type if it isn't already. It's easier to get your hand behind furniture and flick a switch than try and pull out a plug.

      You can also buy remote control socket outlets and you could plug one of these into the wall and use it to switch a socket strip on and off. However the remote controlled socket will use power, although probably not very much.

      Lots of appliances now use less power on standby but adaptors can use electricity. I bought a SONY Bravia TV recently and on the spec, the power on standby is supposed to be zero watts, however I checked with a power adaptor and while the TV itself doesn't use power, the switched mode power adaptor (like the one for a laptop) uses 17 watt.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 21 months ago

      Thank you, I was worried a socket strip might just do the same thing as having something off. I can't remodel lighting (I rent) but I'll look into the socket strip & remote. It's a co-op apartment, so it's small, and all the outlets 'conveniently located' are smack-dab behind the furniture so it's always a pain in the butt, lol.

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