/ Technology

When it comes to tech, energy saving is a turn-off

One of my bad habits is that I don’t switch off the TV at the socket before I go to bed – it drives my husband insane. But, according to our latest survey, I’m not alone. Do you switch off your tech products at night?

It seems most of us leave technology products on at night. Of the 1,496 people we asked, 98% have a TV, 96% a printer and 80% a desktop PC (despite talk of the latter’s imminent demise).

Of those who own these, just 60% turn off their TV, 71% their printer and 60% their desktop computer at night.

In these times of spiralling energy costs, why aren’t more of us switching off our tech before we hop into bed?

Switching off is too much hassle

The main reason I don’t switch off is, like over half of our survey respondents, because it’s too much hassle to do so. Writing that here makes it sound like a poor excuse. Is it really too hard for me to take the few steps from the sofa to the TV’s plug socket?

Laziness is a poor excuse, but physical design is to blame too. As my colleague Al Warman wrote earlier this year, many TVs no longer come with a physical on/off switch – their power buttons will only put them in standby. This means that you’re forced to reach for the socket. And in our survey, around one in ten blamed the lack of a hard on/off switch for not turning off their tech at night.

The second most popular reason for not switching off is that four in ten believe that the amount of money saved will be minimal. And there’s some truth in that. Our tests reveal that most TVs consume less than 1.5 watts when in standby, meeting recommendations set out by the Energy Saving Trust.

A little energy goes a long way

While the savings may be small, it seems crazy not to switch off these devices at night. Even with the move towards energy-saving light bulbs the only light left on in our house at night is a small night light in my daughter’s bedroom.

This night light serves its purpose, whereas there’s absolutely no need for our TV, desktop and printer to stay on at night. I can’t remember the last time I engaged in a spot of late night printing, or web surfing for that matter.

And if you multiply the energy used by the 29% not switching off their printers, the 40% running all-night desktop computers and another 40% leaving their TVs on standby, it doesn’t take long to realise that collectively huge savings could be made.

With winter drawing near and my own energy bills set to rise I’ll be changing the habits of a lifetime and turning off my tech products at night. My husband will be delighted.


There are some who are obsessed with this, some who don’t care at all and others who don’t give the matter a lot of thought.

The easiest solution is to try to get manufacturers to offer products without standby and with power switches that actually switch off the power. Many people look at the energy ratings for kitchen appliances, so why not do this for TVs etc?

Let’s see, BT Homehub, NAS drive, TV, fridge, freezer, phone charger, PS3, microwave, boiler – all these items are left on or on standby in my flat every night.

Things like NAS and Homehub cannot be turned off as you want them to work immediately after you turn on your computer/phone/xbox/hifi etc. I would advise against turning off a fridge or freezer or a boiler too. 🙂

Realistically the only things I can switch off are the TV, the PS3 and the microwave (all currently on standby), but when all remaining things are left on or on standby, what’s the point?

Energy is cheaper at night anyway and 10p off my next bill isn’t really going to make any difference.

Lets get realistic and keep a proper perspective on energy saving actions.
It gets things out of proportion to suggest huge savings on a “collective” basis if we all save the odd watt-hour here and there especially when turning on and off all these devices involves a lot of effort.
It would probably result in a significant increase in banged heads, broken items etc and actually cost more energy.

Driving very slightly slower, turning off the Central Heating for a few minutes a day or setting the hot-water temperature to a more realistic ( and safer) 50 degrees would save far far more energy with hardly any effort.

It is not helpful to push or publicize actions which reduce a tiny percentage of our energy consumption especially when they involve effort – it can result in many people thinking that they are doing their bit when in fact they are making no significant savings.

Hot water needs to be at 60 or higher to kill off Legionnaire’s bacteria in the pipes / cylinder / boiler etc.

Other than that I absolutely agree with rarrar.

The savings in energy that will make a big difference are the ones that no one is prepared to make, such as all appliances being made with hard off (or no on off) switches so that the power really is cut off (or you are forced to pull he plug out) or shops, offices and businesses being forced to switch off heating between May and October as it always used to be, and air con at all times the heating is on. How often do you find that in a shop or other public building there is heating blasting out unwanted warmth in summer, with e doors open and someone say on top of an air con unit trying to keep cool? It’s certainly a very common occurrence everywhere I have worked.

Of course small savings at home are worthwhile – they cannot be counter-productive – but they will never ever result in the scale of savings that are so desperately needed.

I wonder why people seem to be adverse to a bit of “effort”? Doesn’t take long to switch off and it really is only a matter of forming a habit.

Groucho says:
19 August 2017

Because people in the UK have become lazy and spoilt. When you see them parking in disabled places, to save a walk. When rubbish is dropped instead of being taken home. I could go on, but people really are spoilt. I do not know what will put things right. I do a cleaning job, and see monitors, printers, PC’s, shredders, all left on at night. I see a dishwasher with eight mugs in, because someone is too lazy to wash them. If you see what is thrown away at the local ‘recycling centre’, then you will know that people are spoilt.

A little warning about turning off your router. Recently I upgraded to ADSL 2+ but my download speed halved rather than doubled; I found that BT had put a cap on the line because I was turning my router off when not in use and overnight and that this registered as some sort of a a line fault to them The only way that I am able to maintain the available download speed is by leaving my router switched on 24/7. So much for BT`s contribution to energy saving

Thanks for the warning. I was planning to put a timer on my router this evening, but I will carry on wasting electricity for a little longer.

What I was told (and it was not in writing) was that over the first week the maximum reliable speed would be negotiated, though I was not asked to leave the router on all the time. I was not happy and after the third phone call, something magical happened and the speed increased about threefold. Incidentally,

My neighbour turns the router off every night and gets the same speed as I do. I am not with BT.

I use Post Office broadband over a BT line. It is (and always has) been unplugged when not in use. Boot up time for the router is as fast as for my Mac (which is much faster than any PC running windows) and I have never yet had any problems with speeds, capping or updates.

All routers and most broadband providers operate differently, so my experience is by no means to be taken as a guarantee that everyone else will be so lucky.

I tried turning off my Freeview and PVR boxes at the socket but found that they lost time and programme settings, and upgrades.

I guess the point of all the effort is to work out which appliances can be switched off and which are best left on standby. My broadband automatically switches on to standby at the end of the evening and comes back on at 7.00 am. That is the only item which i leave on now.

Diggle – this is an example of poor design. Ten years ago I had one VHS recorder that remembered the time (and a different make that lost it if switched off for a very short period). It would not be difficult to design Freeview and PVR boxes that switched on only when needed and occasionally to do the updates. The small amount of power needed could be stored in a rechargeable battery or capacitor and this would mean zero power consumption most of the time.

Considering how far we have moved on with computers and smart phones I cannot understand why large manufacturers are still selling products that need to be improved. But I agree with Dave that this needs to be kept in perspective.

I reckon manufacturers have years of improvements lined up to drip feed us with. If they released them all in one go, they wouldn’t have anything ‘new’ to tempt us into buying their latest innovations.

I have often wondered how many years of ‘new’ faster processors Intel have in hand. Every year they release something just a little bit better than last year.

I do not turn off my TV at all as it is used as a part of my music/radio system which is on all night – and Cabletop box is left on standby. If there is no background sound my three pet greyhounds will run out in the garden through the dog door to bark at all invading cats which can be many – (this was also true when they were at our racing kennels – though not at cats). I also leave on one 8w CFL all night which illuminates the entire open plan ground floor to ensure the greyhounds do not injure themselves by racing into furniture as they are playful, fast but clumsy. A broken leg can cost £3000. In addition I also like to listen to DVDs of radio programmes while going to sleep – over 150 hours of selectable programmes.on one DVD controlled by the Remote control. Telephone left on..

I switch off the entire PC network (all PCs, Printers, broadband and scanners on separate mains switches as well as a Master switch via a Master Surge Control Panel- I leave on fridges and freezers – the central heating and hot water are on a single dual control time switch usually on for just two hours all also thermostatically controlled. while on..The time switch left on as it wouldn’t work otherwise.

Having recently had a smart electricity meter installed , thats acted as a great incentive to the whole family as we can see the immediate impact of switching something on. Yes it does take effort to switch off, but then i can say that my bill has not increased since i first bought a property 20 years ago and that has because of taking time to invest in good energy saving products and switching things off.

I’m not saying dont make the effort to switch every small item off at night or during the day when you are out but dont delude yourself that you are making significant savings.
Probably less than 1p day for the broadband router and 0.2p per day for a modern Sky box.
It might even cost you money and energy by reducing the items lifetime switching on & off everyday.
In comparison switching the Central Heating off 10 mins earlier could save you several times more.

I have always wondered about the saving of turning off lights v the life of bulbs. We have lots of ceiling lights so one switch turns on/off 9 lights. Is it worth turning off every time you go out the room or does turning the lights off a dozen times a day shorten the life of the bulbs 12 x £1.50 is a lot of money.

Don’t forget that like with everyday spending, little things really do add up. My wife and I are lucky enough to be retired so time is not always of the essence for us but some things are just so easy. In spite of them being rubbished in the recent Which review I use that little plug and remote unit which turns off anything plugged into that socket. In my study the router, PC and printer all go and in the living room the TV, PVR/DVD recorder and stereo all are turned off. Whoever said that it takes too long to reboot a router must have a duff router or be very, very impatient. My BT 3 router takes all of 1.5 minutes to boot up! The TV and PVR are fine and lose no tuning, ditto the stereo (Bose CD/radio). It might not amount to much individually but several million people doing it would make a difference.
Add in sensible things like turning on the gas boiler for water when you need it (usually only 2 brief sessions a day here) and turning the heating thermostat down a couple of degrees make a huge difference. If you can afford it or when you have to, change your car to something more sensible and it goes on and on making big savings. Even driving your car just that bit more economically adds more. Use that acceleration when you need it and don’t even hold up any but the worst boy racer but anticipate driving situations and you’ll be more relaxed and not take any really significantly longer to reach your destination.
The list goes on and on when you think a bit about what you’re doing. Don’t be a bore but do be sensible and the savings are still there!

dazaboy says:
19 November 2014

The power used to reboot your router would far exceed the power used had you left it on standby, thus defeating the object, also turning a router on and off all the time usually affects the download speed and since this is the only time when your router uses any significant amount of electricity leaving a router switched on standby to maintain maximum download speeds is most cost effective

An inexpensive plug-in monitor will show how much power is consumed and I very much doubt that rebooting it will consume extra power. Mine certainly does not.

i have a gadget that is linked 2 all the sockets just one click and they all turn off easy

CJ Deane says:
9 September 2011

I am disabled, and would find switching off products a total nightmare. It is also worth knowing that some items last longer, and hence are ultimately more energy-efficient as there are less needing to be manufactured, if you do not keep switching them on and off.

Switching of PCs at night can be a real pain, especially if you then remember something you need to do and need to restart it again. The power used by a few hours in Hibernate or Sleep mode is probably about the same as the power taken to restart it in the morning.

Bobby says:
9 September 2011

I was told by my supplier that TVs should be left on standby overnight as that is when updates arrive. If it causes no harm to the equipment I would rather turn off overnight and when I’m away.

I never switch off my PC as it takes an age to boot up if I do and I need it on for remote access when I am working away from home. My printer is usually switched off when I am not using it, mainly because it lights up like a Christmas tree and the lights annoy me. TV, DVD etc all left on standby unless I am away then they are switched off at the wall. My central heating is switched off when the weather is warm enough and switched back on when it isn’t! I live in the North East of Scotland so the winters are long. I refuse to shiver for the sake of saving a few pence that will make little or no difference to my bill.

Please can Which? do something sensible such as calculating the actual cost of leaving the following on:
3 laptops on standby
3 sets of external PC speakers connected thereto
a monitor screen
a digital photo frame
a laser printer
a wireless modem router
two backup hard disc drives
a bedside clock
a 28″ LCD TV on standby
a Humax Freesat box (with hard disk)
a DVD player
my son’s PS3 (probably)
the kitchen HiFi/radio (which loses all station settings if turned off at wall)
a landing light (dimmed).

Sounds a lot. I suspect, though, that the landing light is the most costly, and that all the rest add up to less. Trouble is, it’s an old house and lots of the wall sockets are behind furniture and hard to reach. And it takes 5 minutes to boot up the PC and everything, which doesn’t fit the morning rush. And backups run at night. So it’s have to be a big cost for most people (including us) to get into the habit of turning it all off and on again, even if we are conscientious recyclers, drive lowish-consumption cars and run the dishwasher and washing machine on a timer.

Hard, isn’t it?

Unplug your fridge, fridge-freezer and switch off everything else for long enough to measure the power consumption over a period of 30 minutes or an hour. It is really very easy.

If you want to find out which of these items is using most power then you will need some sort of meter. I bought one in Maplin. Anything that gets warm is likely to be using most power.

I agree with you about the inconvenient power sockets. Many of us have exactly the same problem.

Keith Collins says:
9 September 2011

Recently bought multiple controller from Aldi (£9.99) which now controls TV & recorder, tv in kitchen and tv in conservatory – before bed simply switch the “all off” and in the morning or first time you want a tv swith “all on” or individually. Simple.

I’ve only just found this conversation, having been mesmerised by the one on energy saving light bulbs. Consequently I’m not certain, but I have not read anything about the fire risks associated with leaving any device permanently switched on. All such devices have internal or external power supplies which means they invariably use a transformer to lower the applied voltage. It is not completely unknown for these to overheat and to possibly cause a fire. (I know af a ‘plug-in device for elliminating kitchen smells which did just that) All such devices should ideally be unplugged when leaving the house for a long period ie holidays. At other times switching ‘off’ on the device, or at the socket should suffice.

Any electrical appliance can overheat and even smoke, but there should be no fire risk as long as it is properly designed. I have not heard of CFLs causing fires. If this was a problem, those strongly opposed to them would be sure to let us know. Nowadays lampshades and light fixtures are marked with a maximum wattage because some people have used large incandescent bulbs that could present a fire risk.

We rely on manufacturers to ensure that electrical equipment is not a fire risk, but sometimes action is needed (see Conversations about Beko fridge-freezers) when this does not work.

You are quite correct, wavechange, in saying any electrical appliance can over heat, but only if it is switched on or on standby, and only if it is connected to the mains, (plugged in).
PLEASE can we leave CFLs out of this convo ?? I got heartily fed up with that thread and have dissasociated(?) myself from it.

I live in a three bedroom large flat, and had a large gas and electric bill for last January to march , gas £226. electric £306. because i was not careful ,and left televisions on in different rooms, lights on in many rooms, gas heating on twenty four hours, , upon receiving the bills it taught me a good lesson, i instantly changed my quarterly bills to monthly bills , and switched off all plugs (not fridges ) and only used them when i needed too , my last gas bill was ten pounds for the month, and electric was twenty eight , i was not being tight i was simply trying to see what my minimum use would cost , i fully understand that this is summer so we do not use as much, but this trial has me programmed into next winter , ie, don’t use what you don’t need .

I don’t really get all the fuss about the ‘hassle’ of switching stuff off; As already mentioned, it’s just about forming a habit, then you’ll think little more about it. In these times of dwindling resources and rocketing energy prices, I find lame, spurious comments about injuries sustained in stretching to switch things off, quite pathetic really.

Excuse the lack of a concrete figures and source (I’ll google it, if you must know), but I remember reading from a reputable source (possibly New Scientist), that a fair number of UK nuclear power stations could be switched off, if everyone suddenly stopped using standby functions, i.e. only used devices as and when required. The point being that 1watt here and there, does of course add up to megawatts over an entire country.

The wife and I switch off everything except the boiler, VCR, microwave (no other clock nearby), and fridge/freezer overnight, and we have a lot of gadgets! I don’t get why people think it’s a hassle- it’s just the part of the night-time routine and it takes less than a minute to hit some switches. If your power switches are hidden away.. well that’s your bad room layout; move things so that switches aren’t hidden away or use extension leads- simple!

Routers and wifi get switched off too, even if we pop out for a few hours (apart from the power issues, it lessens the chances of passers-by hacking in). Start-up time isn’t an issue; they boot up in about the same time that my windows 7 machine boots up, so another non-issue here.

I stayed overnight at a friends house a few weeks ago and was appalled; he switched nothing off at all, not even standby- even the Nintendo Wii was left glowing away, waiting days for its next disc to be inserted…. wasteful, wasteful, wasteful 🙁

John W R Matthews says:
12 September 2011

As the Meercat says “simple”
I have my TV ,Sky box, Wireless Sky router, DVD player, Wireless Printer, all pluged into a surge protection bar.
One plug to pullout on the way to bed. Never had a router speed problem.