/ Technology

Would you buy a TV without an on/off switch?

TV standby button

Why is there a growing trend for TVs with no on/off switch? A switch doesn’t cost much to manufacture, can be placed on the side for the sake of appearances and saves power – so why is it so hard to come by?

I know someone who recently bought a TV with no power button. It reminds me of the old joke: My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Terrible.

How do you turn off a TV with no ‘off’ button, then? The terribly simple answer is that you can’t and you don’t. Without a proper power button the best you can hope for is to put your TV into standby or power-saving mode, but it will still be consuming electricity.

Alternatively you’ll need to fumble around on the wall behind the telly for the mains socket switch, or if it’s particularly inaccessible you could invest in a remote control socket adaptor.

Standby’s the lazy option

Thankfully, we’re not talking vast amounts of power being consumed when in standby – our TV tests show it’s often much less than the 1.5 watt maximum recommended by the Energy Saving Trust. On its own, having your TV on standby won’t cost the earth, even on your ever-inflationary electricity bill. But add it up across the nation and it’s a more significant, and unnecessary, waste of power.

So why the trend for making it harder to switch off our appliances? Why has there been a retrograde step in ergonomic evolution to take away our control when our gadgets shut down? With most TVs’ power buttons now on the side or underside, it can’t be for the sake of maintaining the striking, svelte lines of today’s flatscreens, and it’s not exactly a critical case of VPL (visible power-button line).

Regardless of the power wastage, many of us leave the TV’s evil red LED eye glaring from the corner of the room, too lazy to exert anything more than a finger to press the standby button on the remote control.

Some Sony Bravia TVs have a feature called the Intelligent Presence Sensor. This system uses advanced face recognition technology to turn the screen off if it thinks no one’s watching. Of course, it doesn’t go the whole hog and turn off the TV entirely, just into standby. Otherwise, how would it know when someone’s back in the room?

A simple switch isn’t too much to ask

Conversation readers think it’s an issue too. Stephen Speirs emailed to give his opinion on his new Sony TV :

‘I was very surprised to find it does not have an on/off switch. Maybe it does and I’ve yet to find it! And it’s not the only product with this problem – my Bose iPod dock has to be plugged in at all times, otherwise the battery discharges.

‘Seriously, in today’s age of environmental consciousness, IMHO it’s not acceptable to have products that waste energy in such a way, just for the few pence a switch costs. Isn’t it time all manufacturers had to include proper on/off switches to stop energy consumption when not in use?’

Well said, Stephen. So you know what to do. If you’re not watching, turn it off. And TV manufacturers – if you’re reading this – make it easier for us to turn off when we want to.

If you’re thinking of buying a new TV, don’t dismiss the importance of power consumption in your decision. All Which? LCD, LED and plasma TV reviews include a rating, based on lab measurements of how much energy each model uses while on, in standby, or firmly switched to ‘OFF’.

Would you buy a TV without an on/off switch?

No, I think they’re essential (76%, 764 Votes)

I already own one and hate it (11%, 114 Votes)

Yes, they’re not really needed anymore (7%, 68 Votes)

I already own one and don’t mind it (6%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,009

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Sophie Gilbert says:
14 June 2011

“If you’re thinking of buying a new TV, don’t dismiss the importance of power consumption in your decision.” Don’t dismiss the importance of fire safety either. It is good practice not to leave your TV on standby before going to bed/leaving the house. If manufacturers are removing safety features from their devices, we should act against it.

Sophie Gilbert says:
15 June 2011

From the horse’s mouth (Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade): “Switch off and unplug TVs, washing machines and tumble driers when you’re asleep or out of the house. Appliances like fridge-freezers, videos with timers and cordless phones are designed to be left on.”

They’re not the only fire brigade in the country to give this advice.

I appreciate that the advice is always to switch off and unplug appliances that are not in use but what is wrong with just switching off at the wall socket? Assuming that the switch is working I do not see any significant benefit of unplugging an appliance except perhaps to avoid damage in a lightning storm.

Time would be better spent checking that appliances have the correct fuse and the cable is in good condition. Also unplug high power appliances occasionally to check that the pins of the plug do not become warm after use.

Phil says:
14 June 2011

A switch would be cheap but it’s not the way the economics of mass production works.

If the manufacturers can save £1 on each set they make and they make one million sets then that’s another million pounds profit they’ve made.

Completely at odds with the need to reduce energy consumption though.

The thing is, the switches are still on there (as far as I’m aware) it’s just that their function has changed – putting the TVs into standby rather than fully off. I wonder if there is a deeper reason for this – perhaps it is more costly to make a TV do this?

switches cost pennies I guess when purchased at scale/high volume. Sure all adds up, and taking them out makes the manufacturer more ££.

At a list price of £500 for a TV, surely there is no justification for not spending those extra few pennies on a switch

If the TV was £100, I guess I could be more understanding. for £500? Yes I expect a switch!

However if we buy products that *do* have proper “hard switches”, the manufacturers will get the point.

jon honeyball says:
14 June 2011

depends entirely on what the “deep standby” consumption actually is.

there’s no reason why it cannot be less than 0.1W. Which is such a tiddly amount of power that it can almost be ignored. Many products today are below 0.25W in standby mode. There are EU directives covering this.

The fire issue question — I’m not sure that this is actually real. There can be a tiny circuit which flips a power relay. Is that tiny circuit any less likely to fail than a physical switch, which suffers from physical wear and tear? I am not sure – a real power switch is not perfect or 100% reliable


Nick says:
29 May 2014

0.1W in each of 20 million households translates to 1 Wind turbine needed just to operate standby TVs.

However, more critical are businesses that close the curtains to protect against sunlight and then switch on lights all over to illuminate the office.

Nowadays an ‘on/off switch’ often does not cut off the power, so even appliances that do have a switch use energy when switched off. That may be essential (e.g. DVD recorders). In other cases it is not essential and could be considered poor design.

Good point. Yes, a switch does not guarantee “hard” power off. In my arguments here, I say we need “hard off” power switches.

YouKnowWho says:
14 June 2011

Before I purchased an LCD TV I asked in a few stores about where the Power Off button is on these things. Each time I got a blank look, like why the heck do you want on of those?
So now I have to use the switch at the socket, when I remember.

Bad design.

In my view, it all adds up. We should have a “hard” off switch. Let’s name and shame the manufacturers who don’t put proper off switches on the products.

Also, some facts. I have a Sony TV, I’ve looked up the manual

Power consumption in “standard” mode: 87W.
In Standby “Quick Start” mode : 15W

i.e. 17% of full on.

Sure, there is an “energy saving standby mode” at 0.2W … however in most pieces of equipment, this gives you real slow startup times. So most of us I guess are using the 15W option.

Give us an on-off switch and we can have best of both

I’t not just TVs I complain about. With Bose, I have an IPod dock. Great product, sound wise. However leave it unplugged for a week, and the battery completely discharges – it has no on/off switch, only an automated standby mode. What a waste of electricity. I called Bose product support. Their answer? “Oh – you need to leave it permanently plugged in and switched on”. Again – what a waste and disconnection from the energy efficient age we need to live in.

EAch of these products cost ~ £500 and £250. They are both premium products. A switch costs pennies at most at the type of scale these manufacturers produce at. No excuse for no proper switch.

So bad job by Sony, Bose and others who don’t have switches. They don’t tell you that on their web pages. Credit to Pioneer – their TV we have does have a proper switch.

Hard Off switches are essential for fire safety and energy saving.
I am utterly disgusted that the law permits the sale of ANY electrical appliance that dies not have such a switch.
This is not a new thing: it is an inevitable result of the stupid obsession we have with wanting Electronic / digital / soft controls on everything.
The fire risk is in the circuits not the actual switches, so jon honeyball’s point is not entirely satisfactory to explain the situation.
The only safe solution is to withdraw the plug from the socket when the appliance is not in use.

Before anyone thinks or accuses me of being a luddite let me point out that for the first 20 years that I lived in my own home I almost never unplugged anything at all and relied entirely upon the appliance switches. An increasing number of appliances in my home became “soft” switched as time went on.
When I got a terribly unreliable LG washer, with no “hard off” switch I continued to leave it on at the wall until the 3rd engineer to it pointed out that, despite it’s EST approval, it was using a significant amount of power when “switched off”.
Shortly after that, when it blew up a 4th time, I started to switch things off at the wall and pull plugs out and I was astounded and horrified to find that my energy monitor showed a drop over well over 250 watts in “base load” every night.
In the 18 months since I started to pull plugs out I have seen my quarterly electricity bills fall by around 90 units per quarter.
That’s quite a saving just for pulling a few plugs out at night.

I think this shows what we must all do?

I have a small Proline TV without a power switch. I’m embarrassed to admit that it has probably not been used in the last three months but left plugged in because the socket is behind furniture. Using a small plug-in energy monitor I measured a consumption of about 10 VA on standby (about a quarter of the power consumption when in use! I won’t make the same mistake again.

I always leave my work and home desktop computers (both recent iMacs) on standby for convenience and because I know the power consumption is very small – well done Apple. I have an old Compusys PC at work and if that is put in standby mode the power consumption is over 50% of what it uses when powered up.

I don’t know how accurate cheap plug-in energy monitors are, but they produce some interesting results.

Wavechange: I think the plug in monitors are really quite accurate these days and it was with one such device that I found just how energy guzzling my awful LG washer was, just before scrapping it. and going back to my 1983 Hoover Electron (which we’ve discussed before) and finding that it uses about a quarter of the energy a modern “energy saving” machine does.

Certainly my “Wattson” energy monitor seems to be pretty accurate (if annoyingly awkward to use) and I think anyone in any doubt would get more than accurate enough results to make the point clear.

Dave: I have an inexpensive ‘Plug-in Power & Energy Monitor’ from Maplin. It is very convenient to be able to check individual appliances and I’ve not found any unpleasant surprises so far, except for my portable TV.

I don’t understand why you washing machine was using power when not in use. Perhaps it was keeping the water warm, ready for the next wash! In the 70s or 80s some TVs kept the picture tube heater on when the set was not in use so that the picture appeared immediately after switch on. Fortunately that is history.

ionlywant trains says:
15 June 2011

I have a onclick power switch which turns off (not standby) all my devices (DVD player, console etc…) when I press standby on my tv remote and standby’s devices which have to be on all the time to function correctly – such as PVR digi box.
Actually isn’t that why we no longer have an off switch on modern TV’s. Because the TV actually has to be on all the time to update itself. By this I mean TV listings, which are present on all digital TV’s.

‘Because the TV actually has to be on all the time to update itself. By this I mean TV listings, which are present on all digital TV’s.’

What a good reason to use electricity.

ionlywant trains says:
16 June 2011

I never said it was a good reason. Just that seemed to be a reason why manufactures use standby rather than an on/off switch.
Don’t you find it handy that your TV guide is upto date when you turn on your tv?

Sorry, my criticism was intended for the manufacturers and not you.

I rarely watch TV unless I am told about an interesting programme, so most of what I watch is on iPlayer. I don’t know how much power it takes to keep the TV guide up-to-date. That is the obviously relevant in deciding whether this is a useful feature or a waste of power.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the TV guide broadcast over the airwaves, rather than being ‘stored’ in the TV. I have never had an out of date TV guide when turning my TV on after it was turned off at the plug.

The TV guide is definitely broadcast. My old set-top box takes a few minutes to update when plugged in so it is conceivable that some older sets could be updating their guide on standby, as was suggested at the start of this thread. If yours is up-to-date when plugged in then hopefully all modern sets are designed this way.

ionlywant trains says:
17 June 2011

I have an old digibox which only updates at night – you can’t change the setting. If its not left in standby overnight then it takes about 10mins to download the TV guide over the airwaves. During which time its unusable, so has to be left on standby overnight.
maybe digiboxes have moved on since I bought this one?

I am all in favour of on / off switch and the removal of standby. However, for some devices this is not possible – such as PVR’s which (obviously) will not record when turned off.
However, TV’s and standard digiboxes (which will soon be redundant as all new TV’s have freeview) should have an on / off switch. Even better, use something like the power sockets which turn every device for you and have been mentioned by several people in this thread.

Neil says:
17 June 2011

It’s not just saving power, but that is important. I am sure that the majority of fires which start in peoples living rooms are caused by defective TVs left switched on. I always switch off mine at the wall socket as well.

ionlywant trains says:
17 June 2011

That can’t be true and if it is where did you find that? Your suggesting standby causes more living room fires than cigarettes?

Admittedly, one fire caused by a device on standby is too many…

Old CRT TVs were a much greater fire risk than modern flat screen TVs because the picture tube used extremely high voltages, especially in colour TVs. I remember reading about the fire risk in a Which? article soon after the first colour TVs were introduced in the 1960s. Even the old black & white TVs sometimes went on fire and I had to deal with a TV fire when I was a teenager.

All electrical appliances should be switched off and unplugged when not in use, this is the recommendation of the majority of fire services and fire safety advisors To remove the switch is a step which encourages appliances to be left on standby,a significant number of fires can be attributed to appliances being left on standby, it is most certainly a retrograde step to actively encourage this practice. [ex fire officer and current fire safety consultant].

ionlywant trains says:
17 June 2011

“unplugged when not in use” – surely just turning off the switch on the wall will suffice?

We risk running into pedantics and getting off topic, but on the fire safety matter, just switched off at the wall or the set, even if the set does have a “hard off” switch, may not be enough to prevent fires and this is why the fire service and any reputable electrician will always advise unplugging.
Some common examples of when it’s inadequate to just switch off include where the wall switch is either incorrectly wired and switches the Neutral rather than the Live or where it is damaged/faulty, and when the switch on the set is used but the flexible cord and / or plug itself are damaged or faulty, including where damage may be caused after the set has been left, such as by rodents chewing the flex, children cutting it with scissors (it’s amazing how often this happens!) or where the plug has been incorrectly wired.

These issues are very real, but they are not the responsibility of the appliance manufacturers, so they are not really directly relevant to this thread.

What IS relevant is that if the set no longer has a “hard off” switch then switching off at the wall, or better still pulling out he plug, is more essential than ever.

Chris P says:
23 June 2011

I agree that equipment should be switched off at the wall for safety reasons and I do this with my elderly cathode ray tube TV. However, my freeview box does not like being switched off,
The volume comes on at maximum when turned on again and it reloads TV channels which I have previously deleted. I reluctantly leave it in standby to avoid these problems. Would this happen with a new digital TV?

@ ChrisP

TVs should store your preferences on non-volatile memory for up to around 6 months without power. Most Set-Top boxes are similar, but I expect – as you have found – that budget boxes don’t have non-volatile memory. A bit of a pain to keep retuning and changing settings.

One factor that needs to be addressed is that manufacturers of both TVs and boxes will send out firmware updates at certain intervals (usually a couple of times when first released and then maybe once or twice a year). These updates are sent over the air (FreeView of FreeSat) during the night. So it may be necessary to keep sets sitting in standby occasionally to receive these updates.

I’m not sure how Sky and Virgin send updates for their boxes, but I imagine it is done in a similar way.

Always switch off – saves money and reduces fire risk. If the switch is inconvenient or inaccessible, use bye-bye standby. It might use awatt or so, but one of those switches off our TV, PVR and DVD player in one simple press.
Don’t believe the message with some digital receivers and the BT home hub that you have to leave things on overnight so that updates can be downloaded.

ionlywant trains says:
17 June 2011

Although I agree with you, I use a one-click power socket to do the same thing.

A couple of points though…

Do you mean “switch off your PVR”? It wont record then unless you happen to be watching TV at the same time – kind of defeats the point of having a PVR doesn’t it?
Also, I do have a digital receiver which has to be on standby every night, otherwise it doesn’t update its TV listings. Its very old and i’m sure newer ones update over the air when you turn them on.
The BT home hub thing is true though – however, it does have a power saving mode built in if you (like me) can’t remember to turn it of everynight.

Tony says:
17 June 2011

I always unplug at night, the days of the tv bursting into flame at night have not left us. They maybe 98% realiable but that 2% is the one I would always get, No thanks, I would always have a switch.

Mike Firkins. says:
17 June 2011

Being an electrical engineer I have maintained that every electical device should have an isolation switch is a mechanical break in the supply. I’m very sceptical about the use of a transistor as a main isolating device etc!!

Yes agree, we need isolation switches and manufacturer’s should publish whether their appliances do or don’t/ Unfort when you buy on-line. as many of us do, you don’t get to see the “hidden” features like no hard off aka isolation switch.

To answer some other points. Due to location of power sockets, it’s not always that easy to fully unplug. And say you are leaving the room for an hour, this may be a real pain. Now if my TV had a proper on/off switch ….. anyway next time I will be very careful buying a Sony TV, although I am sure they are not the only manufacturer that takes such short-cuts.

the doc says:
17 June 2011

Now the TV firms are out to save a few pennies on each TV:- it adds up to quite a large saving for them [ 1TV =10pence 100 =£1 1000 =£10 etc]
Years ago car makers stopped using fuel guages in gallons as it cost 6d extra for an accurate guage [2.5p] and they said rhat the customer would not like to pay that amount. {cars cost £350-400} then.SO LET SAFETY RULE KEEP ON/OFF SWITCHES ON ALL APPLIANCES !!
All my kit gadgets are switched OFF at bedtime.

It would be a help if Which? reports indicated which of the appliances tested have a proper power switch that cuts off the mains supply. As discussed above, some on/off switches do not do this and there is no easy way for the customer to find out this information.

Which? members and participants in these Conversations make a lot of demands, but here is something that would be useful, very easy to achieve and not a great demand on resources.

Absolutely agree Wavechange: Which? often seems to miss out on “quick wins” like this one in their testing. I expect this is a reflection (or supposed to be) of what consumers WANT to know, but perhaps there is some case to be argued for what consumers NEED to know, even if they don’t realise that they do?

I guess that smacks of “nanny state”, but if it’s a matter of safety surely it’s worth doing even so?

Good point wavechange. We do collect this information so given the depth of feeling here there’s no reason why we can’t include it online in our product reviews. We’ll add it for our TVs from the next batch onwards (due on the website on the 8th of July).

Couple of points worth mentioning though. The presence of on/off switches and the amount of power used both in the ‘off’ state and in standby do feed into the total test score. It’s only a small part of the overall weighting but nevertheless is accounted for within the 10% allotted to power consumption.

On the presence of on/off switches themselves, one possible reason for the gradual disappearance is the likelihood of them breaking. Though this was never a hugely likely occurrence, they are mechanical parts so more susceptible to wear and tear. Broken on/off switches used to be one of the more common faults reported on TVs in our reliability surveys.

The manufacturers have either opted to do away with them altogether, or replace the ‘hard’ off mechanical switch with an electronic ‘soft’ off option. Worth bearing in mind though that the power used when ‘off’ in this mode is often the same as standby mode – or even more! Some of the latest sets (Samsung) use less than 0.1 watt in standby, where as some ‘soft’ off options (Panasonic) use over 0.2 when off.

But if you’re really keen to save power then it’s the amount used when ‘on’ that can make a crucial difference. In that vein we’d advise against buying plasma TVs, and instead opting for LCD (and especially LED backlit LED). Light sensors are brilliant at saving power too – they can cut top-line figures in half in a darkened room, and check out our recommended picture settings. Typically many (but not all) TVs come with default settings with brightness whacked up to look good in-store. Our recommended settings for the ‘best picture’ are usually a quick way of reducing the out of the box power consumption too.

Thanks Mike. I appreciate what Which? is doing to make us aware of the power consumption issue.

Having done a lot of repairs to electronic and electrical equipment I am well aware of the problem of faulty switches. It is down to build quality and it would not be expensive for manufacturers to provide power switches durable enough to outlive the equipment.

Phil says:
20 June 2011

Thinking about it this might be a reaction to people who never turn their TVs off, I know one such family and increasingly when we book into a hotel room or holiday cottage we find the TV is on.

The responsibility lies with us – don’t be so lazy that you can’t be bothered to save electricity! Yes I unplug the TV every night, and yes my (old) digibox very occasionally (but not very often) pauses while it reloads the guide. I put up with it on principle. Physical disabilities aside, ‘just do it’, it’s your planet too.

Some new TVs only consume 0.25 W when on standby. Presuming electricity costs 17p per KWh, it would take 7.76 years to consume £3 of electricity which would be approximately the cost of a switch. On the plus side, no switch means something less to go wrong.

But I vote for the switch because there’s nothing stopping pranksters sneaking past your house and switching on the TV using a remote. Not something you would like to happen either in the middle of the night or whilst you are away on holiday.

I never use the on/off switch on my tv. That’s not to say I like wasting money, I use standby saver sockets instead. They work by using the infra-red signal from your remote – when you click the button to send your tv into standby, the signal is picked up by a separate sensor, which then turns your tv off at the wall. Then to turn it back on, you simply click your standby button on the remote again – no more wasted energy.

The best thing about these devices is that you can also plug other equipment, eg surround sound systems, dvd players, into the same socket so that these are turned on & off with your tv. And you can still leave your freeview/ sky box turned on all the time so the timer functions work.