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.
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
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.
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 screensaver, 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
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.