The Cost of Standby Power

standby power

In the popular press there have been a number of reports along the lines of “households wasting hundred of dollars on standby power”. Being an inquisitive sort of fellow, I bought a simple power measurement meter to see how much money was being wasted in our home.

After some time measuring all the electrical appliances in our home, I sent the following letter to the editor of “Silicon Chip” magazine and it was published in the November 2011 edition:

It has been an interesting exercise to tabulate the various consumption figures of all our devices when they are on and off. I then made up a quick spreadsheet so I could see the annual costs rise and fall as I changed the usage time.

The surprising discovery in all this has been how little power modern appliances seem to use on standby. The following costs are based on 24 hour connection and 24 cents/kWh.

32″ LCD TV0.4 watts$0.84 per year
STB/PVR1.1 watts$2.31 per year
DVD player0.5 watts$1.05 per year
22″ LCD Monitor0.7 watts$1.47 per year

These figures seem to line up with what I believe is the European standard which requires a standby power usage of less than 1 watt to be considered “green”.

Some of the older appliances used more power on standby:

Masthead amp3.2 watts$6.73 per year
CRT TV5 watts$10.51 per year
VCR6 watts$12.61 per year
modem/router5.5 watts$11.56 per year
Mircowave3.1 watts$6.52 per year

Even at these figures, you would need several old TVs and VCRs to make up the hundreds of dollars the popular media tell us we are wasting with standby power each year. Certainly turning off computers, CRT monitors/TVs and VCRs when not in use can reduce the power bill a bit. Of course turning off 3 x 50 watt downlights for an hour, or a 2400 watt heater for 4 minutes, will save more than leaving the VCR in standby for 24 hours – and you wouldn’t need to reset the clock.

The other thing I observed is a useful rule of thumb formula. At 24cent/kWh (the cost according to the bill I got last week), it is simply a matter of doubling the standby watts, to give you the cost per year. For example, a TV with a standby power of 5 watts, will cost just over $10.[/stextbox]

The point being, modern appliances do not draw much power when on “standby” (turned off but still connected to the power). Older appliances do use slightly more power on standby, but you would need a lot of them to make up the “hundreds of dollars” often mentioned.

standby power myth, power strip

Of course, even little amounts do add up, so if you are not using something every day, you will save power by turning it off at the power point on the wall (or the switch on a power board) .

However if your TV and DVD player are made in the last few years, it will only cost you a few dollars a year if you leave them in “standby” while not being used. For this price is it not worth the effort I’ve seen people go through to reach in behind their entertainment system and flick the power switch off each night.

I find it much easier to turn off lights and appliances (like heaters and air conditioners) when no one is the room, and this does save power. In the last quarter alone, our electricity bill dropped by $160 by using electrical things less – and my entertainment system is still turned on.

If interested, you can easily calculate your own power usage for each appliance with the Power Usage Calculator.

If want to buy a simple power meter, here is a link to Amazon’s range of power meters.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Hi,

    Just stumbled on your article as I’m looking to automate my home with smart controls and I’m trying to work out if the cost to install a smart switch will be offset by the savings from turning my media devices off completely.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it won’t and something that came to mind whilst reading your article, was that of all the devices tested, it looks like the PVR takes up the most standby energy and this is the one device that CANT be switched of otherwise recordings will fail.
    I just thought that this adds to the debate of ‘turning devices off to save money’ and any devices that can help achieve that, as I imagine the most power hungry ones are always going to be the ones that you don’t want switched off as they are probably doing important things like updates or recordings.

    Of the older devices it again looks like the one you would never want to switch of; the router, is the one that costs the most…
    Maybe newer routers are better but I bet they are still one of the higher ranking devices as they’re still doing stuff when your not using them.

    Harry (UK)

  2. 84 cents a year assuming 24 cents/kWh isn’t so horrible that you would go broke from that all by itself unless you are in such a financial situation that every nickel counts. I pay much less than 24 cents/kWh so I don’t see my LCD TV costing me much. If you truly want to see what something is drawing, get one of those kill a watt meters. I never tried one but I have had thoughts of trying things on it to see how much they draw. I can not tell you if they are accurate or not, I never had one. It is only in the winter that my electric bill is a shocker.

    • Hi Chuck,

      My point exactly. Standby power of modern devices is very little and makes very little impact on the total domestic power bill.

      On the other hand, heating (water and rooms) drastically increases your power bill.

      thanks

      Geoff

  3. hi Geoff
    i live in uk
    i have problem with my tv loosing its digital channels when my tv is switched off for some weeks as i sometimes dont watch tv for weeks-months
    i have been advised to leave the tv on stanby mode 24/7 so i wont have to keep re tuning my tv ( search for digital channels)
    how much will it be using its a samsung small flat screen tv only 14 inch i think probably about 6 years old now!
    please advise as before i use too always turn the tv off and un plug it
    but as i say my tv then when i do decide to watch maybe weeks/months later its lost its digital channels and needs re tuning
    i hope to hear from you soon
    thanks dave

    • Hi Dave,
      It is not too difficult to calculate the cost of standby power, especially using my simple calculator.

      From what I could find, the average price of electricity in your area is around 12p per kWh. All web sites I looked at say 14″ LCD TVs have a standby power of between .5 and .76 watt – let’s round that up to 1 watt to be conservative.

      So using the calculator, input 0.12 for the price, 1 for the watts, and 24 for the time, and the result given is 1.05 pound for a year. This gives you a very handy rule of thumb formula – for every watt of standby power it costs around one pound.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

      • hi geoff
        thanks for your reply and calculation
        i have decided to switch my tv off and the mains plug
        ( and not keep in on stand by ( for cost- fire safety reasons)
        as its like throwing money away not to mention the carbon print!
        i will see if putting the tv on once a week the channels will stay tuned

        i wonder if there are many more people ( in uk) who experience similar problems who are also not a tv addict as a say i dont watch much tv at maybe once a week or once a month or so

        re david hargreaves

  4. A question from Mark (Canberra, Australia): Does a phone charger draw power when it is not connected to a phone?
    Thanks for the question Mark. The answer is – it depends. It depends mostly on what type of charger you have. This is such a good question, I’ve made the answer into the article called “Phone & Ipod chargers”.

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