/ Home & Energy, Technology

Do you keep your tech on standby?

TV standby button

This week an Energy Saving Trust report hit the headlines with the claim that households could save £1.7bn a year by switching off appliances in standby.

The Trust said that we’re wasting between £45 and £80 a year by having all our household gadgets in standby.

Interestingly, I know from our testing that some of the latest gadgets, including TVs, are now impressively energy efficient. When it comes to standby, I personally feel it’s important to think smart with our energy use while still getting the best out of our products.

Energy efficient gadgets

Based on power-use data from our 2014 TV testing, even a high spec 55-inch LED HD TV will only cost you £31.13 a year to run. This is based on pretty heavy usage of five hours viewing per day, with the rest the time the TV being in standby mode, when it will use a miserly 0.22 watts.

We’ve found that new TVs with 4K ultra HD resolution use more power than HD ones, but even an equivalent 55-inch 4K model will only use 0.28 watts in standby mode and will cost you £44.61 to run per year on the above usage.

Plasma TVs use more power than LED models, but they’re on the way out. And if what we’ve heard about OLED screens is true, then TVs could become even more energy efficient in future.

Be smart with your switch off

Of course, having a house full of standby lights blinking away all the time isn’t great for your energy bills. If you know you won’t be using a gadget for a period of time, it’s best just to switch it off. However, there are smart things you can do to save energy.

Take the Xbox One, for example. If you have the console in its internet-connected ‘Instant on’ standby mode then it uses a hefty 11.1 watts (based on our test lab data). However, switch to the energy saving standby mode and power use drops to just 0.3 watts.

The benefits of standby

One drawback of switching the Xbox One to energy saving mode is that you don’t automatically get software updates, as with the Instant On mode, so there is the trade-off

That’s not the case with smart TVs, as leaving them on overnight allows for software updates to occur in the background and the TV will only use minimal power while in standby.

With broadband routers, some should be kept on 24/7 to maintain a consistent service performance and be ready for overnight firmware updates. Although this is the case for BT routers, Virgin says its customers can turn their routers off and not be negatively affected.

So, do you turn your tech off after use or do leave it on standby?

Profile photo of rarrar

I do feel that some of these energy saving statements are based on very old technology and designed for media headlines rather than on good scientific principles.
Using the figures quoted:
£50 pa =~ £1 per week =~ 10 kWh of energy
Based on 100 hours of standby per week this = 100 watts power.
This is unrealisticly high for the average household.
I’m struggling to find any piece of equipment which is less than 5 years old which uses more than 1 watt in standby.
Of course there will be household with a 3/4 old sky boxes taking 20 watts each in standby etc but they will be small minority and we should be talking about the average household.
There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to save energy but the effort should be directed to areas and actions which can make a real difference.

Profile photo of wavechange

Small items like chargers will be slightly warm if they are consuming significant power. For larger items, a plug-in energy meter will let you check the power consumption of individual products. I had a small TV on standby because it had no on/off switch until I discovered it was using 10W. I’m sure my energy meter has paid for itself.

Many chargers consume little power after charging is complete but they can be a fire risk, so it’s best to unplug them when not in use.

Profile photo of bib1

Anyone know of a TV that switches to standby whenever a politician appears on the screen?

Not only saves the planet but also vastly improves your quality of life ……

Dave D says:
16 November 2014

Here we go again!

The EST report is welcome, but the EST themselves have admitted in a letter to me several years ago that their testing only looks at the products which are currently on the market, and incudes no products not currently on sale. They also admitted, in the same letter, that they only test products which manufacturers OFFER for testing, so the range of items tested is bound to be very skewed by this.

There’s potential good and bad aspects to these admissions – firstly it would suggest that rarrar’s concern is unfounded – they should not be making headlines from older items … but note I said it would SUGGEST this … I am unconvinced and think rarrar may have a valid point. Secondly the fact that only products offered for testing are considered implies that if manufacturers want to get good PR they will only put forward the most energy effcient items they make and conveniently omit to ffer the power guzzlers. Whether this really happens I don’t know, but if it does then actually the truth could well be that far more power is wasted than the report states.

However, the big issue here is not domestic users. Its businesses. Whilst leaving your charger plugged in (a major fire risk as highlighted by every fire brigade in the country) may not use much power and may not register on yoru domestic energy bill, an office block or school or university with monitors in standby mode, PC’s ‘asleep’ rathen that unplugged, ‘phone chargers left in lots of rooms, etc., uses a phenomenal amount of power that is wasted. My current employment is in one of the largest universities in the north of England and we carried out an experiemnt last year where the facilities staff were instruicted to pull out the plugs of every appliance in every room of just one building on their evening security rounds. Nothing was exempted unless it had a warning notice signed by a Dean of Faculty attached to it. This experiment was conducted over a 3 month period which included the Christmas Vacation. A total of over £800,000 was saved on teh energy bill compared to the same 3 month period the year before and over £1m was saved compared to the same period the year after … showing that waste is on the increase not the decrease.

Imagine how much money we would save if every room in the entire university was subject to mandatory unplugging all year round?

Similarly I just can’t understand how pubs and clubs are allowed to have outdoor heaters switched on all day and all night long, even during closed hours, and yet as I walk the 3.5 mile sto work every morning I pass at the very least 17 different pubs and clubs whith these heaters buring at 07:00, clearly been on all night, and mostly there are more than a dozen heaters at each premises. Quite apart form the ciminal wate opf energy, is there any wonder that pubs are closing due to lack of profitability when they are paying for all that wasted electricity?

Whether domestic or commercial. the issue is twofold – downright laziness on the part of users and lunacy in the manufacturing process for including standby features in any appliance at all. Standby settings should be banned by law.

Profile photo of Clint Kirk

That’s some interesting data, Dave. However, I don’t think you’ve provided enough information for the consumer to draw any conclusions as to whether standby is good or bad in the average case. It would have been interesting to see some actual numbers – how many PCs and other devices were in use in the faculty. Also, you seem to imply that these were all unplugged from a standby mode. Given my experience of university buildings, I would think that most PCs were not in fact on standby (sleep) but were switched on and left at the log in screen ready for the next user to login. During the experiment, there was increased awareness of energy usage among all the users of the building and therefore they tended to be more proactive in switching off unused equipment. I’m sorry but I find it hard to believe £800,000 was saved as a result of saving less than a watt of power per device on standby, even if there were thousands of devices!

Your example of energy waste from outdoor heaters is a much better one. In this case, each device is using kilowatts of energy so it really does make a big difference.

I remain unconvinced with your assertion that manufacturers are wrong to put a standby feature on their products. I do believe that we should all try and save energy, but concentrating on low-power things like standby modes and tungsten light bulbs is futile and risks distracting us from the real energy wasters – those that are rated at several kilowatts. For example, if you are using an electric hob, then turn it off 1-2 minutes before you finish cooking: it will continue to give out enough heat to your pan. It irks me to hear of people saving hundredths of a penny by switching off their devices from standby and yet they fill up a whole kettle just to make one cup of tea.

Profile photo of rarrar

Although showing how much power can be saved by shutting down is a good exercise , I agree with Clint that the savings quoted could not come from PCs and IT equipment alone.
My calcs would suggest that it would take switching off around 70,000 PC+monitor units powered up at 100 watts each to achieve those savings of £800k if closed down for an extra 15 hours.

In hibernate mode my PC + LCD monitor takes 2 watts, sleep mode 3 watts , switched on ~60watts.

In general while pulling out plugs is a good way of monitoring power use, on a large scale this can result in increased faults, cable failures and bad backs whose cost in an organisation can be much higher than the £1 per year saving per PC taken from hibernate to power off.

There is another Which conversation about the use of science to support claims, I think the EST report is a good example of how many reports , claims and ads do not add up scientifically or statistically.

Profile photo of wavechange

I agree about the importance of not overstating claims if you expect to be treated seriously. Having said that, the power taken by different examples of similar items can vary greatly. Taking your example of computers, I once compared the power used in sleep mode by my office computers. One used very little power but the other used around half the power that it did in full operation.

My view is that safety is a good enough reason to turn off electrical goods wherever possible and I am very glad that power sockets are no longer fitted down by skirting boards, which can make access difficult. On the other hand, I remain to be convinced that it is a significant benefit to unplug electrical items if you have switched sockets.

Profile photo of wavechange

A couple of minutes after posting my message I plugged in an Energizer battery charger, which I have used for years and as soon as I switched it on there was a loud bang and a bright flash, followed a very strong smell of burning. Frightening, and I’m as sure as I can be that the charger is not a counterfeit product.

It worries me that many devices such as chargers and power supplies are unfused. Hopefully they have internal fusing, but otherwise the only protection is the 32 amp circuit breaker or 30 amp fuse at the distribution board.

It won’t be to save energy that I will be switching off unnecessary electrical items this evening.

Profile photo of rarrar

They will be fused internally,
Overload protection is almost certainly part of the appropriate EU/BS standard

Profile photo of bib1

Most bits of mains voltage kit that I’ve peeked into have a PCB-mounted internal fuse to protect themselves against overload.
But I think wavechange may have been referring to the BS plug-top fuse that protects us from flex meltdown and/or fire.