Don’t Leave Your Electrical Appliances on “Standby”

Every single step you take to save energy helps you save money and reduce your home’s impact on the environment. This includes switching off, or unplugging appliances that are not in use – something that’s often overlooked.

Nearly all new electrical products – TVs, microwave ovens, air conditioners, and many more – draw power 24 hours a day, often without the knowledge of the consumer. Electric power is consumed by products when they are switched off or in a standby mode, and this is known as standby power.

Some appliances (eg: ovens and air conditioners) use “passive standby” mode, where the appliance is plugged in, but switched off. This may be to display a digital clock or use an internal timer. Appliances that use passive standby mode typically only use minimal power – but it still adds up.

Other technology, such as voice activated smart systems or games consoles, tend to use “active standby” mode – they may require more complex standby sensors or run download content or run checks in the background. Rather than being switched off, these devices are turned on but not in use and use more power to run on standby. Active standby mode can cost 5-10 times more in electricity than passive standby mode.

Standby power use affects climate change. It is roughly responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions. (Berkeley Lab, UK) Research suggests that an informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 20%.


How to know if a device consumes standby power? Almost any product with an external power supply, internal battery, remote control, continuous display (including an LED), or constant network connection will draw power continuously. Many devices with “instant-on” functions that respond immediately to user action without warm-up delay use standby power.

 If you aren’t frequently using a device, unplug it. The older the appliance, the greater the likely savings. (Note: Some causes of standby need adjustments in the devices rather than unplugging.)

Consider unplugging:

– unused VCRs, DVD players and TVs; rarely used audio equipment (amplifiers, boom boxes, shelf-top audio systems)

–  kitchen appliances used infrequently (rice cookers, bread-makers, etc)

–  garden tools (lawnmowers, leaf blowers)

–  any device powered with a remote control or an illuminated digital display that you no longer use

–  occasionally used room air conditioners, portable humidifiers, and air filters

–  network hubs and components that are no longer connected to anything

– office equipment rarely used, such as scanners, shredders, fax machines, and older printers

(Safety first: don’t unplug and plug devices with worn power cords.)

Make it a habit to:

  • Unplug chargers once devices have finished charging.
  • Unplug fans and lamps, and turn off lights, when not in use.
  • Turn off completely your microwave oven, washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, television, and games console. Turn off the switch at the wall socket itself.
  • Put computers into “sleep mode”. This power mode uses far less energy than screen saver mode.
  • Switch off printers and scanners at the wall socket when they are not in use.
  • Unplug electronics with “standby” lights when not in use. Or use a smart power strip – it reduces your power usage by shutting down power to products that go into standby mode.
  • When buying or replacing appliances, choose energy-efficient products with an energy star rating.


Some appliances need to have constant power to download information while others need small amounts of electricity to perform useful tasks that supplement the primary functions – eg: converting AC to DC (wall adapters); 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; charging a battery; continuously displaying information.

The following devices consume standby power which is required for normal functioning that cannot be saved by switching off when not in use: cordless telephones and answering machines; timers that operate devices; security systems and fire alarms; transformer-powered doorbells; programmable thermostats; motion sensors, light sensors, built-in timers and automatic sprinklers.

#energysavings   #energyefficiency   #justenergytransition