The cost of leaving appliances in standby mode

What is standby mode?

Most appliances today have a standby mode, which historically have been included on appliances to allow them to switch on very quickly or to power a display such as the time, while not actually fully switched on.

The most obvious appliance that uses this functionality is the television, which in the case of the two TVs in my home, have a little red light in the bottom right hand corner to show they are in ‘standby’.  But other appliances that regularly have a standby mode include washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, anything with a AC/DC charger (e.g laptop, printer, desktop computer).

The cost of leaving things on standby

Despite internet rumour to the contrary, leaving appliances on standby doesn’t use the same amount of electricity as when they are actually on but the older the model, the more electricity it is likely to use its in this mode.

New European legislation means that new appliances are limited to 1 watt when left in this mode. In the two examples below you can see the cost savings associated with a new item (e.g. a Sky HD box) and a TV that is 10 years old and uses 12 watts in standby mode.

New item

So if an item left on standby uses 1 watt an hour (i.e. it is brand new and adheres to the new 1 watt legislation), then it uses 1kWh for every 1000 hours it is on. There are 8760 hours in a year, so it will use 8.76kWh in a year. Currently 1kWh from one of the big 6-energy company costs 14 pence, so over a year that will cost £1.23 to do nothing!

TV (10 years old)

An old TV uses 12 watts an hour, so it uses 1kWh for every 83 hours it is on (in standby). There are 8760 hours in a year, so it will use 106kWh in a year, which at today’s prices equates to £15, again to do nothing.

How can I make savings?

According to the ‘Powering the nation’ study completed by Energy Saving Trust, between 9-16% of the electricity consumed in homes is used to power appliances when they are in this standby mode. On a bill of £500 this could account for as much as £80, which is a significant proportion when it doesn’t really achieve anything!

So this is a really message to say it is absolutely worth turning your appliances off at the plug, there is no point allowing them to sit in this standby mode.

Likewise for things like charging mobile phones, if you charge it overnight, it will be fully charged after 2 hours, and then for the rest of the evening it is using electricity unnecessarily, so charge it during the day then you can turn off the charger when it is done (or even better charge it at work!).

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