/ 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?


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Electrolytic capacitors do tend to go bang, as they rely on a very thin oxide layer for insulation.
The oxide layer breaks down over time, both as a result of high operating temperature when in operation, or long term storage when no voltage is present.

It can be frightening, especially when the capacitor is mounted in the hand-held parts of an appliance. I’ve had one go off in an Electrolux vacuum cleaner and another in a Bosch router. As both appliance were correctly fused through the plug, there was minimal risk.

Electrolytic capacitors can explode when they get old, particularly if the equipment has been idle for an extended period. Those who work on vintage electronics tend to replace these and some other types of capacitor routinely, which helps avoid damage. I’ve not yet witnessed one go bang but have seen examples.

A friend showed me a portable air compressor in his workshop. A motor capacitor had burst, spraying flammable oil which had ignited and set the plastic enclosure on fire. I replaced the capacitor and he built a metal enclosure to replaced the fire-damaged plastic one. The line output transformer of my parents CRT-TV went on fire. I managed to put out the fire and the TV was repairable. These are just two examples of fire starting despite the correct fuse in the plug.

I see that bib1 has challenged a statement that I made in 2014, but I stand by what I said. Dangerous goods sometimes lack fuses or other forms of protection. If something like a dodgy charger is plugged into a socket the only protection may be the 32 amp circuit breaker in the consumer unit. I mentioned above that I had a well used Energizer battery charger go bang. A post mortem revealed that a couple of components had exploded and circuit board track burned away. A low voltage metal film resistor was provided for protection and had limited the damage. I concluded that the charger had failed in a safe way, even though it was rather spectacular. I presume that the ‘flames’ that came out of a joint in the plastic case were vaporised copper because the case itself was not fire-damaged.

Crusader says:
28 April 2022

You’re dead right about old electrolytic capacitors, especially those used for the smoothing in high voltage power supplies in old valve circuits, like in old vintage TV sets and radios for instance, they don’t get called “smoothing bombs” for nothing! And I’ve seen some such capacitors explode, but only smaller ones thank goodness. It must be a much bigger bang with the much bigger sized high voltage ones, especially where there’s two or more in one can which there often was in old vintage stuff. Apparently they were known to blast through casings and redecorate the ceiling! And the plug fuse only really protects against lead damage and components connected right after it, like filter capacitors and rectifiers and again the high voltage smoothing capacitor, and possibly the main switching transistor in things like chargers for power tools or cordless vacuum cleaner batteries, or phones, or laptops etc. And in my experience of such things there is usually a built in fuse on the circuit board at the mains input but again it can only give minimal protection. And of course the mains fuse in an older TV set wouldn’t always fail and cut the power if something like a line output transformer suffered an insulation breakdown and high voltage arcing as such a fault wouldn’t always put enough strain on the mains supply to blow a fuse, either in the plug or in the TV’s mains input, that’s why later sets had the line output transformer potted with epoxy resin in an outer plastic casing, but even then they can still suffer breakdown and serious flashover, again without blowing any fuses, I’ve seen it happen enough times over the many years that I renovated old TV sets. And I bet there’s some dodgy counterfeit power packs and chargers out there now without an internal fuse, or other fusible component(s) even fitted which surely must be a serious breach of regulations, either ours or international.

Nowadays, blue Class X and Class Y safety capacitors are used for suppression purposes. Class X are used across L and N and if used in conjunction with a suitable fuse should not be a fire risk. A school friend deliberately subjected a small electrolytic cap to reverse polarity and it hit the ceiling.

If you stick to known brands of electrical goods and buy from well known retailers, that’s about the best you can do to protect yourself from dangerous products, though there are some convincing counterfeit products on sale.

Although retailers selling in the UK are legally responsible for ensuring that the goods they sell comply with all relevant regulations, Which? has identified numerous potentially dangerous products on sale via their online marketplaces.

The bigger picture is simple – everyone should waste as little as possible. This includes everything – not just energy. If everyone in the world leaves their appliances on standby all the time that amounts to a very large amount of wasted energy! And for what? Precisely nothing.

Philip Wake says:
27 April 2022

“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.”
0.28 watts for a year comes to 0.28 x 24 x 365 = 2453 watt hours or 2.453 kwh which would cost around 68p at 28p per kwh!

Crusader says:
27 April 2022

I don’t know why the new generation of flat panel TV’s don’t have a proper power on/off switch like the older sets used to have where the mains input cable went straight to the switch first, so when you switched it off, it was switched off proper with no power going into any circuits, so there was far less of a fire hazard. And now that I’ve got my first flat pack TV, a little 19 inch LCD thing, I’ve plugged it in via a remote controlled socket adapter, so when I go out and go to bed at night etc. I can switch it off completely and eliminate the possible fire hazard which is what I really hate about the standby condition, rather than what it consumes, and I think the government should reintroduce the proper on/off switch which cuts off all the power and make it a compulsory feature for UK sets. I know that today’s TV’s don’t have the high voltage EHT supply any more as they don’t have a tube but there is still plenty in a flat panel set that can catch on fire if it goes wrong badly enough, especially if it’s been badly repaired by someone either not qualified or just couldn’t give a stuff about user safety, and I’ve encountered plenty of such dangerously badly serviced stuff over the years, and I’ve even more recently encountered some new electronic goods which are quite badly made and therefore in my opinion at least seriously unsafe. In my opinion today’s safety standards for consumer electronic goods are just not good enough with some things so they should switch off proper.

They automatically download programme information when in standby, as far as I know.

They do, but there is no real need. A computer promptly downloads new email when switched on, and now that many modern TVs have fast internet access, the updating could effectively remove any delay.

My TVs do not have internet access. I expect some others, of an age, do not either. Whether Crusader’s has, or whether he chooses to use it, would be interesting to know.

Our TV does not have internet access but it quickly brings up programme information from Freeview if we turn it off at the socket for any reason or if there is a power cut. Most of this is processed through the personal video recorder [PVR] box which also saves pre-set recordings and stored programmes.

What is annoying these days is the frequency of channel changes and new channels that require a re-tune of the PVR. This cancels all pre-set recording commands so we have to find the favourite programmes again across the channels and set them up again to record. We watch very little in real time so use the PVR to enable us to jump through boring bits and skip the adverts and trailers. We probably only watch half of what we have recorded as there are not enough hours in the week to catch up with everything.

Crusader says:
28 April 2022

No, my set doesn’t have any net access. It does have a common interface port but it’s not used. And of course the remote controlled socket adapter does also use a tiny amount of energy while in it’s “off” condition, but not as much as the TV would use in standby, and the adapter’s relay is off and not powered when in it’s off state, just leaving a small voltage regulator powered up and powering a tiny micropower chip to decode the signal from the remote control when it receives it. And my PC gets switched off completely when not in use, along with all it’s peripherals, except for the router which has to remain on which I don’t like but it’s a necessity according to the manual. So if the government want us all to start switching stuff off completely then they need to get proper power off switches reinstated on things like TV’s and set top boxes, and DVD players and game consoles etc. as at the moment far too many devices don’t have such a thing and far too many power sockets either don’t have switches, or they’re in places where they’re not so easily accessible, especially for elderly folk and some disabled folk too, especially in older homes. And my TV has a switch at the back in a little recess at the top but it doesn’t switch off the power completely like it should. They need a switch on the front, or at the side like the old tube TV sets had which completely cuts all the power when switched off.

Reminds me of something which happened in my Uncle George’s house many year ago. I visited his home in Liverpool with my family and on the first morning I came downstairs to boil some eggs for breakfast. 5 minutes later there was a smell of gas so I checked and it turned out that the gas under the pan hadn’t ignited because Uncle George has been unplugging everything electrical every night after a TV fire which occurred recently. I could understand his concern, but a gas stove is hardly a fire risk and unplugging it over-night could lead to a highly dangerous situation. And it did: I didn’t know about his unplugging frenzy and therefore expected the gas to auto-ignite as it always had before. So I said to Uncle George: “I understand that you’re concerned about there being another fire because your TV caught fire recently presumably after you’d gone to bed!”
He replied without a smile on his face: “No, I was watching it at the time!”

As far as I know, all current gas cookers/hobs should have a a flame failure device on each burner. These are effective and will cut off the gas if the burner fails to light or a pan boils over and extinguishes the flame.

Gas boilers have auto-ignition but if this fails the gas supply will be cut off very quickly if the burner fails to light. I would hope that Uncle George’s gas stove was designed in the same way.

Crusader says:
28 April 2022

It depends how old it was. I used to have an old 80’s brown & beige gas cooker which I got in 1986 which only had a thermocouple safety device in the oven as back then that was all that was required. And I’ve still got a gas fire from the same era which doesn’t have a thermocouple either. It’s only sometime since then that gas cookers and hobs etc. and fires have been required to have a thermocouple on every burner. And I’ve now got a nice white gas cooker, one of the last to be made here in the UK with a high level grill which I prefer and that has a thermocouple on every burner.

I think the £44.61 per year includes viewing time as well as when on standby. Maybe that is how the figures are made up? £44 viewing and £0.61 standby.

Former contributor rarrar questioned what was in the introduction too. A useful contributor who has not posted for seven years.

Crusader – I have a late 90s Bosch gas hob without thermocouple flame failure detectors. Some brands fitted them before this and as you say, oven burners had them before hobs.

It was very old – we’re talking a long time ago – I’m 76 years old now and it was an old oven then – probably as old as Uncle George! Lo!

I had a Sony TV that was kept switched off in a spare room for a few months. It missed all the on-air software updates and was “bricked”. Turning a TV on for a few hours at random internals might have the same effect, unless software updates and distributed differently now.

*are distributed differently now. Anyone know if this is still an issue to be aware of?