Almost any appliance and electronic entertainment device that plugs in uses electricity whether it’s turned on or not. If you have cable TV, you cable box is “instant on,” and that means that it’s on standby, with all the parts warm and ready to go every time you turn it on. It takes energy to keep it ready all the time.
Other appliances and electronics like microwaves and computers sip electricity all day and all night for the same reason. This standby power is also used for digital clocks on electrical products like microwaves and kitchen ranges.
How much? In 2013 in the US, laws were enacted to limit the electricity used for standby convenience in new products to a half a watt per hour. If you, like most of us, have products made before that time, they are probably nibbling up a watt per hour at least, but electrical products manufactured before around 2005 could be gobbling rather than nibbling, at rates up to 10 watts per hour.
That may not seem to be a lot to worry about, at least until you start counting the appliances and electronics that are plugged in all or most of the time. It’s estimated that the average home has forty electrical products. That’s a minimum of 20 watts an hour, all day and all night. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (http://standby.lbl.gov/standby.html) up to 10% of your electric bill could be due to standby convenience.
Walk around your house and pay attention to everything that’s plugged in. Here is a sampling of what you might have:
- CRT (tube type) television sets
- Cable boxes
- Entertainment systems
- Game systems
- Phone chargers
- Kitchen ranges
How much is it costing you? Take into consideration the age of the product and list each one at half or one watt or 10 watts, according to its age. When everything is listed, multiply the total times 24 to get the amount used for each day. Multiply that amount times 30 and you will see how many watts are being used each month for standby convenience.
The price per kilowatt should be on your electric bill but if it isn’t, a call to your utility company will give you the number. Multiply the total watts times the electric rate and you will know how much it’s costing you in dollars and cents.
If the amount bothers you, you can put products on power strips, then turn off the power strip when it’s not in use. This might be difficult or impractical for some appliances like kitchen ranges that use 240 instead of 120 volts, although if you can find a place to position the power strip, it could save you some electricity.
There are many ways to cut back on wasting electricity, but it can take some thought. Use a power strip turn off things that aren’t needed all the time, like the cable box, or unplug them from the wall. When you shut down the computer for the night, turn off the modem and router the same way.
Saving the electricity that is wasted not only saves money, it saves the environment because that much electricity won’t have to be generated. Some would argue that it even saves our health because excess electrical energy disturbs our bodies’ natural rhythms.