We've all opted for the lazy option and left our appliances on standby instead of turning them off at the mains, but how much does it cost?
Although it is hard to measure just how much energy leaving things on standby actually uses, it's estimated to make up about 8% of the average electricity bill. That's a lot of electricity (and money) wasted, especially when you consider that making just a few small changes could make all the difference.
So, if you're looking to save on your energy bills, here is one area that you can easily make a difference in, just by changing your habits.
The worst standby offenders
While leaving any electronic device on standby for a prolonged period of time is a waste of energy there are certain appliances around the home that are the worst offenders. We've listed them below so you know which ones to target.
The main culprits are stereos, followed by TVs and games consoles. Games consoles are particularly bad - they remain in idle mode when they're not in use, consuming almost the same power as when you are playing a game. Perhaps it's not surprising given the number of children who play games, hardly the most energy-conscious consumers!
With the exception of a set-top box, (which needs to have constant power to download information from digital transmissions and for the series link recordings), all other electronic equipment should be switched off at the socket when not in use. An easy way to do this is to have a TV and its peripheral equipment (except the set-top box) on the same multi-socket extension so it can all be switched off in one go.
If you use a desktop computer, one way to ensure you keep your energy usage to a minimum is to set up the 'sleep' mode in your preferences - setting a time delay of ten minutes of inactivity tends to work well for most people. Sleep mode uses just a few watts of energy, which is in sharp contrast to using a screen-saver, which consumes almost the same energy as having your computer monitor in full use.
Of course, when you have finished using your computer it is still a good idea to switch it off at the socket, as well as any peripheral equipment such as printers and scanners; if these are all set up on the same multi-socket it is simple to switch them all off in one go.
One other setting you need to set up is linked to your back-up system; if your computer is switched off the back-up will not run, but if you make sure you set up your preferences to "run task as soon as possible after a scheduled start is missed" then any back-up will take place immediately you turn on your computer.
Laptops are more energy efficient than desktop computers, but a mistake many people make is charging them unnecessarily, or leaving them constantly on charge.
The same thing often happens with your mobile phone too. On average they take two hours to charge, but many people leave them on charge overnight, wasting electricity in the process.
As a general rule of thumb, if a gadget isn't in use, then the best policy is to switch it off at the wall. So, if you aren't watching the TV, switch it off completely, don't switch it to standby, and definitely don't just leave it on!
Breaking the standby habit
Don't worry if you don't fancy the prospect of finding your plug socket every time you leave the room though. If you're finding the standby habit hard to break, there are some standby saver devices that can make it easier.
For instance, remote control devices that allow you to switch off all appliances in one go when you leave the house, or intelligent energy-saving plugs and switches that turn off multiple but related devices at the same time. Although, using a switchable multi-socket extension lead could be a good way to simplify your set-up for related gadgets, making it easier to switch things off - if you do go for this option, choose one with surge protection, it's a good additional feature that will protect your equipment from any mains spikes.
A final word on switching things off that is worth a mention is lights. If you leave a room then get into the habit of switching the lights off, a small act, but one that over time will save on your electricity bill.
Other ways to save energy
The clearest way to save electricity around the home is to make the switch, no pun intended, to energy-saving lightbulbs. In fact energy-saving bulbs are often the only bulbs you can buy these days.
When they were introduced energy-saving lightbulbs were on the receiving end of a lot of criticism due to their perceived dullness and the delay between switching them on and the room lighting up.
Luckily these design-flaws were limited to the earliest incarnations of energy-saving bulbs. Newer models have remedied this and are almost indistinguishable from traditional incandescent bulbs except for one crucial fact – they use far less electricity.
You should also remain vigilant about turning off lights, as well as closing doors, when you leave a room. Getting special 'quick start' energy-saving light-bulbs may actually make you turn lights off more frequently as you're now worried about having to wait for them to come back on.
If you have a family you can also get your kids involved by playing energy-saving games around the home. Making a fun game out of turning of the lights, or switching devices of standby, say just before they go to bed for example, could be a great way to save energy and engage your kids.