Standby, but don’t stand idle unless you want to get bitten by the Vampire devices

Who hasn’t tried to save on electricity?

We turn off the air conditioning when we’re not home.  We turn off the heat in the rooms we’re not in.  We turn off lights when we’re not using them.

No matter how much you think you’re saving, there’s still more room for it, by unplugging your appliances.


TVs, DVD players, game consoles, cable boxes and computers left in standby mode continue to draw considerable electricity.  Cell phones left in the catch of their chargers consume passively.

Domestic equipment represents 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. electricity bill each year.

Appliances on standby cost $100 on average per household per year.  At the national level, this represents a few billion dollars per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, national residential electricity consumption in 2004 was 1.29 billion megawatt hours (MWh)—5% of which is 64 million MWh. The wasted energy, in other words, is equivalent to the output of 18 typical power stations.

Yet, there are those who think these vampire appliances are a big issue… and there are others who do not.

Those who are concerned about electricity have suggested that standby power use accounts for 1% of global C02 emissions.  While there is certainly a contribution, I prefer to think of the waste we have compared the amount of energy received from electricity.

I dislike waste.  I dislike things that waste my time and my energy.  I dislike inefficiency and I absolutely do not like paying for it.  The utility bill is never welcome in my mailbox.

I won’t go into details about how much each connected electronic device on standby costs.  Ultimately, this is your responsibility to find out.  It’s your responsibility to understand how much energy you are expending, standby or not.

For starters, go buy a low cost watt-meter.  It measures the devices in your home so you can see where energy is flowing away.  Then take action you feel you need to take.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

You may find that your set-top DVR box is using 35 watts of power in standby mode.  You may find that your old rear projection TV, switched by remote control, uses about 10 watts.  Test all the other devices in your home and the addition climbs quickly.

There are about 15 to 50 devices per household.  While manufacturers have made efforts on the power saver over the past 15 years, we have more and more gadgets to play with these days.  As a result, the overall consumption of standby devices has increased over this time.

Standby power can easily add up to about 100 watts per household of three or more people.

To calculate the cost of electricity:

Wattage x Hours / 1000 x price per kWh

So here’s how we got the cost of standby power of $100 on average per household per year:

100 watts x 8,760* / 1000 x 12 cents per kWh**

* Total number of hours in a year.

** We use the average residential electricity rate of 12 cents per kWh in the U.S. in 2012.

Those who do not believe vampire appliances are a big issue argue that unplugging them does not save a lot of electricity.  They say that equipment like phone chargers represent only 1 percent of the U.S. electricity bill each year.  They say the numbers we’ve been using are based on obsolete data, older devices and past versions of regulations.

It’s true that new energy efficiency standards have been imposed on manufacturers by regulators.  Manufacturers are also focusing on energy related efficiencies.  They are both doing their part.

Thanks to increased efficiency in electrical design, electronic devices now come with lower standby power losses, and use 1 watt or less in standby mode.  This allows consumers to minimize consumption while maintaining convenience.

After all, standby’s benefit is convenience.  We live in a world that never turns off and we like it.  I must admit I like grabbing my TV’s remote control.  The remote is there waiting for me to come home and ready with the push of a button to turn on.

A 1 watt device on standby costs about $1 per year at average electricity rates.

So what do we do about standby power?  I am a firm believer that when we stand idle, we fall behind.  In financial terms, we lose our money.  In social terms, we lose connection.

Each household uses different manufacturers and devices.  Each of us has set usage and behavior patterns around our devices.  Begin to see how we can change those patterns and become alive from getting rid of dead waste.

So don’t stand idle.  Understand what you are really consuming.  Don’t let the phantom loads drain away your energy.

How many appliances do you have on standby in your home?  Count how many there are… I would be curious.

Why pay for dead waste?  Understand how wasted energy flows out of your home.  Reduce your electricity bills.

Know which of your electronic devices in standby mode use more electricity than others.  Then group them together and get a switch-able power strip for them.

Or you can do something similar to what my brother-in-law did.

Ten years ago, he put together a solar panel system to charge all of his home appliances and electronic devices.  He bought two solar panels, a charge controller, marine battery and inverter.  The cost of those pieces was a few hundred dollars back then.

Be really active and buy a self-containing solar charging kit with inverter.  If you have access to your roof and have good sun exposure, you can produce your own solar energy.  This is the first step into freedom and independence – freedom from the burden of carbon emissions and independence from the electrical grid.

Prevent the release of unnecessary CO2.  Regulators and manufacturers are working on this.  We as homeowners can do our part too.

Help our environment as much as you can.  You all have the responsibility to do your best when it comes to protecting it by reducing your carbon footprint.

Don’t waste energy, build it up instead.

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