Hands in Your Pocket: The Cost of Standby Power - Environmental and Otherwise
Go check your electricity meter box. Is the wheel turning and clicking over, recording your power usage? Probably. Now go back inside, and turn everything off. The lights, the coffee maker - even the fridge - and check your meter again. Is it still turning and clicking? It probably is, if even a little bit.
You are a victim (and wanton consumer) of standby power. And you are paying dearly for it, in more ways than one.
What is Standby Power?
Standby power (also called phantom power or a phantom charge) is the power consumed by appliances even when they are turned off.
If it has an external power supply (power cords with blocky power adaptors), led lights, a remote control, or any sort of continuous display, you have a standby power culprit on your hands. Even your television, which may not have any led lights or displays, consumes a shocking amount of power (pardon the pun), simply waiting for you to pick up the remote and turn it on.
What is the cost of Standby Power?
1 watt of standby power equates to about $1/year in consumption. This may not seem like much, but when you have 40+ appliances in your home drawing an average of 5 watts when they’re off, this can add up.
Up to 10% of residential electric charges are attributable to standby power, and about 1% of global CO2 emissions are the result. Although this may still seem small for some, let’s remember that this is a form of consumption that serves no purpose; everything is off. You gain little to no benefit from this consumption – and cost. If you invested the $200/year you spend on standby power, you could have over $24,000 in 30 years (at 8% average growth).
What in my home consumes Standby Power, and how much?
As stated earlier, if it has a led light, continuous display, remote control, or external adaptor, it is a standby power culprit.
Computers are huge offenders, especially if you like to leave them in sleep mode: laptops draw almost 16 watts, and desktops over 21 watts. Even turned completely off but left plugged in, you will draw up to 9 watts. And if you like to leave your laptop plugged in while using it even if it is charged, you are drawing almost 30 watts of unnecessary power (not to mention destroying your laptop’s battery life).
Do you have a digital cable box sitting on top of your television? The digital cable box – while off - is pulling 17 watts, and 43 watts if you have a digital video recorder. Your television is consuming an average of 6 watts, just waiting for you to turn it on.
To find out what in your household is consuming standby power and how much, check out this great chart.
How do I reduce my Standby Power Usage?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Unplug everything that is not currently in use.
- For ease of unplugging, use a power strip and switch it off to cut power to multiple appliances at once.
- If you have a wireless modem, turn it off when you are not using it. This is also a great security measure to ensure hackers don’t have access to your internet connection and devices.
- Don’t leave your laptop plugged in beyond the time it takes to charge (and make sure you unplug it from the wall; don’t just disconnect the adaptor from the laptop). This also saves your laptop battery life.
- Check out products like Green Switch to help you automate the process.
Together, let’s save our money - and a little piece of the environment – by reducing our standby power consumption. It is easy enough once good habits have been developed. And who doesn’t want to save money? I mean, really?