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Does turning everything off actually save power?

As your TV show wraps up, you lean over to grab the remote and turn the tele off. The screen fades to black - and that’s the exact moment your TV stops using electricity, right?


Standby power - sometimes referred to as phantom load, ghost load, vampire power and other oddly spooky names - is the name given to electricity that your household gadgets and gizmos use when they’re left on standby.

From your microwave to your Xbox and everything in between, there are probably dozens of appliances in your home that are quietly drawing power while on standby. Essentially this means that you’re paying for power that you’re not even using.

Turning these appliances off at the wall can help you save power, but how much of an impact does it really have on your power bill?

How standby mode works

Standby mode isn’t the same as completely powering down a device. Standby is an operational mode that requires a small amount of electricity to power certain components of an appliance, such as:

    • A remote control receiver
    • Text displays
    • Light displays
    • An internal or external power supply

Look around your home. If an appliance has an LED light, digital clock or a remote control, there’s a good chance it’s consuming standby power as you’re reading this.

You might be surprised to learn that, until recently, there were no rules surrounding standby functionality, and many appliances drew huge amounts of power while in standby mode. It wasn’t until the first decade of the 2000s that developed nations began introducing regulations regarding standby power efficiency.

How much does standby power actually cost?

The average home spends about $100 annually on standby power. That might not sound like too much in the grand scheme of things, but let’s put it into context.

Experts estimate that about 7 percent of the average Kiwi household power bill is wasted on standby power. As a nation, that’s about $100 million per year squandered on appliances that aren’t actually doing anything. In terms of energy consumption, we could power the city of Nelson for a full year with the amount of electricity we waste annually on standby power.

Identifying the guilty culprits

When it comes to standby power, some appliances are thirstier than others.

The most expensive devices to leave on standby are typically those that perform a lot of background functions.

For example, some gaming consoles in standby mode will check for Wi-Fi connectivity, download the latest updates and await activation via remote or voice command - all of which require a certain amount of power.

You probably also have some devices that don’t necessarily draw a large amount of standby power but are used so infrequently that it doesn’t make sense to leave them on standby 24/7. For instance, printers, scanners and dehumidifiers all use power while in standby mode despite being rarely used in most households.

How to reduce standby power consumption
1. Turn your appliances off at the wall

The most effective way to reduce the amount of standby power you use is to turn your devices and appliances off at the wall when you’ve finished using them. Make life easier for yourself by plugging your standby appliances into a power board, which will allow you to switch off multiple appliances at once. You might also want to consider picking up a time controlled switch, which can automatically turn your devices on and off at specified times.

2. Invest in energy efficient appliances

When it’s time to replace one of your appliances, consider investing in a more energy efficient model. An appliance’s energy efficiency rating refers to how much electricity it consumes while it’s running, but it’s also a good indicator of how much power it draws while on standby. You can use the Energywise Rightware tool to get an idea of how much a particular model will cost to run.

3. Change your standby settings

Most modern TVs, computers, laptops and gaming consoles are highly configurable and allow you to change which functions they can and can’t perform while in standby mode. Disabling certain functionality (such as automatically checking for a Wi-Fi signal or downloading content) can help reduce standby power consumption.

Save money on your power bill

Turning off your appliances at the wall won’t magically cut your power bill in half, but it can help you further conserve energy and save on electricity. Every little bit counts!

As one of the leading providers of low-cost electricity in New Zealand, we pride ourselves on keeping our prices low. Give us a call today on 0800 785 733 to find out how much you could save by making the switch to Pulse Energy.

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