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Standby Power

Are you wasting money and power without even being aware of it?

By: Jonathan Z. Kremer

Many consumers are unaware that most of their appliances are actually consuming power while they are switched 'off'. These appliances are drawing power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, often without one even being aware of it. This power consumption is called "standby power" or "vampire power".

Standby power is used to run timers, clocks, remote controls, and other features on our home electronic devices, which are either working or ready to go the instant we want.

But this also means that these devices use energy even when they're turned off and are not actually being used. Individually, these functions don't consume a lot of electricity in standby mode, but add them together and these loads start to mount up. It is estimated that standby power accounts for approximately 10-15 percent of the average household's annual electricity consumption. In some cases, the cost of the standby power that is consumed by a device during its lifetime exceeds the cost of power used when actually running the device. For example, a typical microwave consumes, over its lifetime, more electricity powering its digital clock than it actually does heating food. Even though it may take 100 times more power to heat the food, the microwave is in standby mode more than 99% of the time. The same holds for many other devices such as TVs and stereos.

Unfortunately, most standby power is not consumed by remote devices and digital clocks, but rather by inefficient power supplies, and unnecessarily energized electronic parts that were inefficiently designed. The manufacturers usually have no concern for wasteful energy consumption nor for the consumer's high electrical bill. As technology advances, the list of devices that make use of standby power is unlimited. Stoves with clocks, A/C units, microwaves, VCRs, battery re-chargers, TV's, cordless phones, computers and computer gadgets, home entertainment centers, cordless tools, to name a few of the overwhelming array of devices that are being bought everyday, each making use of standby power.

How to reduce standby power consumption

Following are a few simple tips on how to reduce standby power consumption:

  1. Unplug or totally turn off anything that you are not actually using at the time. Turn off your TV from the set itself and not just with the remote.

  2. By using a multi-socket power strip with a switch you can conveniently shut off all the devices used with your computer (such as printer, scanner, speakers...) at the same time, when you are finished using them.

  3. Unplug all transformers and power packs when not in use. Many consumers have brought 110V appliances with them from North America which need transformers in order to be used in Israel (220V). Unfortunately these transformers are usually left plugged in all the time, thus constantly wasting energy.

  4. Newer, better quality appliances are usually better designed and more efficient than their older equivalent. Replacing older "energy sucking" appliances with more efficient ones can reduce standby consumption by up to 75%. When possible, look for appliances that have earned the "Energy Star" - a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, which promotes energy efficient products and practices.

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