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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Standby power and the real energy vampires

By Sam Travers
Household energy waste
Equipment standby features consume valuable energy
UK households spend between £45 and £80 a year powering appliances left on standby mode or not in use, a recent report by Ecotricity concludes. While most people know switching computers and televisions off at the wall can cut their energy bills, less is known about the energy wasted by smaller devices and appliances left on standby.

Often termed ‘vampire energy’ or ‘vampire power’due to its draining abilities, ‘standby’ constitutes a mode in which an appliance is neither switched off nor is fully operational.

The green energy company found a wireless internet router to be the biggest culprit, setting bill payers back an extra £21.92 a year. A laser printer and iPad charger fall close behind, generating wasted energy worth £18.26 and £12.18 respectively. 

Device or appliance left on standby

annual cost

Satellite set-top box

Freeview set-top box £7.31
Sony Playstation 3 £6.09
Microsoft Xbox 360 £6.09
Standard TV (CRT) £3.04
LCD TV £3.04
Plasma TV £4.87
Desktop PC £3.65
Microwave £3.04
Wireless router £21.92
Modem £6.09
Inkjet printer £4.26
Laser printer £18.26
PC Monitor (CRT) £2.44
Electric oven £3.65
Mobile phone charger £2.44
Air freshener plug-in £4.87
Amplifier £12.18
Compact Hi-Fi £12.18
Alarm clock £6.09
CD player £4.87
Nintendo DS £3.65
Electric toothbrush £1.22
Children’s night light £0.73

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that standby power could account for 9-16% of a household’s annual bill. The company’s study into the electricity habits of UK households affirms that “standby power consumption, mainly associated with consumer electronic products and computing, has been observed in a much wider range of products than is generally acknowledged”.

The Trust’s Powering the Nation report also lists the annual running costs of appliances, finding the fridge-freezer to be the most expensive appliance to run at £62 a year. A cooker with electric hob follows close behind at £46 per annum while an electric kettle, in spite of its small size, uses £24 worth of energy a year.

Side-by-side, a sample of the findings from Ecotricity and the Energy Saving Trust paint a surprising picture illustrating just how much energy is needlessly wasted in homes each year:

Device or appliance

Annual cost (standby)*

Annual cost (on)**

Satellite set-top box


Freeview set-top box £7.31 £17
Sony Playstation 3 £6.09 £9
Microsoft Xbox 360 £6.09 £9
Standard TV (CRT) £3.04 £17
LCD TV £3.04 £29
Plasma TV £4.87 £95
Desktop PC £3.65 £24
Microwave £3.04 £8

*Ecotricity figures, **Energy Saving Trust figures

Biting back at wasted energy

Switching to a green energy company or a supplier outside of the ‘Big Six’ could save homeowners money on their energy bills, but there’s plenty more which can be done to save energy in the home.

There are a number of products designed to reduce household energy consumption, such as standby savers which turn all devices off from standby without manual unplugging. Intelligent energy-saving plugs and switches turn off related devices at the same time, such as a TV, set-top box and DVD player.

Small changes in the home, like turning off lights when not in use and not charging mobile phones and gadgets overnight can also reduce energy bills and cut carbon emissions.

About the author: Sam Travers is an eco warrior of sorts. He works for a green charity and blogs regularly with tips and advice on how to make the world a better place.

Image license: Firstfreddy; GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0
"Standby indicator"