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Standing up to standby

Thanks to Rune T via Flickr for this great image)

Thanks to Rune T via Flickr for this great image)

Hi, I’m Nigel Berman, founder of Nigel’s Eco Store. I’m writing some guest posts for the uSwitch blog this week to tie in with Energy Saving Week and to let you know about the different ways you can reduce your impact on the planet, and also reduce the impact on your bills too.

First, some good news about energy

Although energy consumption has risen by 23% in last 35 years, household energy use is starting to fall (domestic use accounts for just over 46% of the total UK energy consumption.) Between 2008 and 2009, domestic energy consumption fell by 5.2%, which is 10% lower than the peak in 2004.

And now, some not so good news about standby

Manufacturers are coming under increasing pressure to make more appliances more energy efficient, and both the Government and the European Commission have pledged to limit standby energy consumption to 1 watt. However, the number and variety of appliances we have in our everyday lives is increasing as more options in entertainment and telecommunications become available to us. So appliances are getting better, but we’re buying more of them.

The cost of digital entertainment

One of the worst offenders is the digital set top box, which uses an average of 7.5W in passive standby mode, up to over 20W, and could amount to as much as  38kWh per year. Uptake of digital broadcasting is on the increase, and currently 53% of UK households receive digital broadcast content through their televisions and set top boxes. In comparison, an old style television (do you remember the days of just 5 channels?) uses around 5W in standby mode.

The cost of convenience

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the UK spends £900 million a year by leaving our appliances on standby. On average, each appliance left on standby uses 10-15 watts. A fairly typical house with the average complement of appliances – TVs, electric toothbrush and shaver, answer phones and cordless telephones, stereo equipment, laptop, PC and peripherals, could be spending around an extra £100 a year just to keep these appliances permanently available at the touch of a button.

Take a stand on standby – tips for saving energy

  • If you’ve turned it on, turn it off again. Turn appliances off at the wall socket when possible.
  • Going on holiday? Give your set top box a break too – make sure it’s switched off. And if you’re not recording a programme, turn your set top box off at the wall.
  • Consider fitting a power strip for groups of associated appliances like computers and peripherals, stereo equipment and entertainment systems. You’ll be able to turn them all off in one go.
  • Manufacturers are improving the efficiency of appliances in standby mode, which sadly means that older appliances will be a lot less efficient. If you’re replacing an appliance, ask questions before you buy about standby power use. But whether you’ve got a fancy new highly efficient stereo, or a much loved old boom box, the advice is the same, turn it right off when not in use.
  • Look for solar alternatives wherever possible: solar security lights, and solar mobile phone, camera and laptop chargers will keep your driveway lit and your mobile devices charged for free.
  • Talk to family members about standby and how much it costs the household, many teenagers have their own TVs, mobile devices and games consoles set up in their rooms, make sure they are turning  all their equipment off at the wall. Get remote controlled standby saver plugs, so you can turn their appliances off yourself if they won’t listen.
  • Don’t leave mobiles and laptops charging over night. Your mobile will only take around 2 hours to charge, your laptop a few hours longer, depending on the model. Neither need a whole 8 hours of charge. Consider getting a standby plug, it can automatically turn the power off once your mobile is fully charged.
  • Using the same socket as your kettle to charge smaller devices means you won’t forget about them!

Do you have any tips for cutting out wasteful standby vampires? Let me know in the comments.

Nigel Berman is the founder of Nigel’s Eco Store.

See more great ways to save energy and money on our website

Sources: 2005 ImpEE Project, University of Cambridge – Domestic Energy Use and Sustainability,

Department of Energy and Climate Change data published in July 2010

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  • Damon Hart-Davis


    I like the kettle/charger socket idea where it’s practical! We’re already pretty careful (who said Scrooge) but good tactics/habits like that make it easier…



    PS. Our Virgin PACE cable box is ~15W on standby: our lighting in the same room is only about double that.