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Standby Power - Electricity Saving Tips in Home

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What is standby power waste?
Most experts agree that standby power is electricity used by appliances and equipment while they are switched off or not performing their primary function. When appliances such as VCRs, DVDs and cell phone chargers are plugged into the wall, they consume energy even when the product is not in use. Consumers often believe that their appliance is off, when in fact it is standing by and still consuming power. That power is consumed by power supplies (the black cubes—sometimes called "vampires"—converting AC into DC), the circuits and sensors needed to receive a remote signal, soft keypads and displays including miscellaneous LED status lights. Standby power use is also caused by circuits that continue to be energized even when the device is "off".

For example, when you turn off a VCR with a remote control, it continues to consume energy in the standby or sleep mode because the power supply inside the VCR is still on, powering the remote control receiver. Even though the remote control receiver consumes very little power (approximately 0.1 W), power supplies that use inefficient technology such as linears, are not smart enough to reduce consumption during the standby state and end up wasting several watts of power. This is what we refer to as standby power waste.

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What is no-load power waste?
No-load power waste is a subset of standby power waste. No-load power is the energy used by a device when it is disconnected from it's load and performing no function. For example, a mobile phone charger that is plugged into the wall, but not connected to the phone will still consume power. Linear chargers can consume between 0.8 W to 2 W even when they are disconnected from the phone.
Which devices use standby power?
Almost any device with an external power supply or (wallpack), remote control, or clock display will draw power continuously. Literally every electronic product that plugs into the wall such as TVs, VCRs, DVDs, washing machines, cell phone chargers, night lights, cordless and feature phones, refrigerators, cable TV decoders, satellite TV decoders, radios, computers, printers, monitors, fax machines, copiers, modems, audio amplifiers, industrial control units, motor controls, etc. etc. It is estimated that there are approximately 3 to 4 billion AC to DC power supplies world wide every year. Sometimes there is no obvious sign of continuous power consumption and you need a meter to be certain
Why are standby power losses a problem?
While individual device standby losses may seem insignificant, when you multiply the number of households, by the number of devices in a household and the amount of time each spends in standby, the problem adds up quickly. It is estimated by International Energy Agency that 5 to 15% of household electricity consumption worldwide is wasted in standby mode. Altogether, standby power use is roughly responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions. In the US, each watt of energy costs approximately $1 to $1.5 per year. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates that standby waste costs US households over $5 Billion in electricity a year. According to the Department of Energy, the amount of standby energy used per year in the US is equivalent to 26 average sized power stations!

As the popularity of home electronics and number of new appliances with electronic controls and features increase, this problem will continue to grow.
How can standby power consumption be reduced?
Up to 90% of standby power is wasted energy consumed by inefficient power supply designs and unnecessarily energized components. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates that a 75% reduction is possible in new equipment and that nearly all standby functions can be performed with a total appliance standby power of one watt or less. This can be achieved by using improved power supply technologies and designs, namely, by replacing inefficient linear power supplies with smarter switch-mode power supplies.
What’s wrong with the current technology -- linear power supplies?
Linear power supplies, also referred to as "energy vampires" because of their energy-sucking nature, work off of old technology from the 1800's, which hasn't kept pace with current innovation. Linear transformers use large iron cores and require many turns of copper wire in order to convert regular 50/60 cycle AC house current to the safer low-voltage DC needed to power our appliances and electronic devices. As a result, they are extremely large and bulky, often times covering two outlets on your wall plate or power strip. Moreover, linears do not have the smarts to recognize the standby or sleep mode of the appliance and cut back the consumption accordingly. As a result they consume many more watts than necessary. As a test, go feel one of the bulky linears plugged into the wall. It will be warm to the touch...those are wasted watts!
How are switch-mode power supplies better?
The second-generation power supply, called the switch-mode power supply or "switcher" for short, arrived in the late 1960s. By increasing the AC frequency from 50 or 60 cycles-per-second to several thousand cycles-per-second, engineers discovered they could reduce the size and weight of the transformer and significantly improve its efficiency (reduce the amount of energy wasted in the form of heat dissipation).
Why do inefficient linears still exist?
Despite being bulky and inefficient at converting power, linears are popular because they have become very cheap to manufacture. Until recently, under 5 W switch-mode power supplies haven't been competitive in cost and since product manufacturers don't have to pay the electric bill, there hasn't been an incentive to prioritize energy efficient designs. It's only been in recent years that governments and environmental agencies have started to develop standby energy policies that reward, or in some cases, mandate energy efficient designs.

Hunting Energy Vampires

Look around your house for external power supplies – the AC adapters that charge cell phones, cordless phones, modems, computer speakers, baby monitors, tools, and many other devices. They lurk in surprising numbers under your desk, in your garage, behind your TV set, and in your kitchen. ENERGY STAR estimates that the average household has up to ten of these devices plugged in all the time.

Some adapters get warm to the touch, even if they’re not charging a device. These copper-and-iron "energy vampires" are continuously sucking electricity from the wall and burning it off as heat.

When shopping for electronic products, look for external power supplies that are compact and lightweight – chances are they’ll remain cool to the touch when plugged in. These power supplies could save you $3 to $6 over the life of the product and help make a dent in greenhouse emissions.

Power supplies are also found inside electronic products such as DVD players, TVs, desktop computers, and consumer appliances.

According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), as much as 10 percent of a typical residential electric bill is spent on “standby” power – the power consumed while products are turned “off” or otherwise performing no useful function!

Most electronic products continue to consume power unless they are unplugged from the wall. TVs, DVD players, CD players and audio amplifiers consume power all the time. Any appliance with an LED display, touchpad controls or a clock – such as a microwave oven, refrigerator or dishwasher – is always on. Even a cell-phone charger left plugged into the wall consumes power, even when not charging the phone.

Tips for Minimizing Standby Power Waste

  • Don’t leave cell-phone chargers and other battery chargers plugged into the wall when they’re not charging anything. Any heat coming from a power supply indicates wasted watts.
  • Consider unplugging kitchen and office products that are used infrequently. For example, external computer speakers are often powered by wasteful adapters that continuously draw power, even though the speakers may not be in use.
  • When leaving home for an extended period of time, consider unplugging as many electronic devices as possible. TVs, DVD players, audio equipment, cordless phones and coffee makers can cost you money if they're plugged in while you're gone.

Electricity Energy Monitors

The basic figures contained within a monthly or quarterly electricity bill do not give you much information as to where your electricity is going - they just tell you how much you have used in total during that period and how much totally you need to pay. Therefore it is well worth considering purchasing an electricity usage monitor and using it to see exactly where all your hard-earned money is going.

wireless home electricy energy saving monitor

One great way to find out how much electricity each of your household appliances and electronic devices uses is with a wireless electricity power/energy monitor, which shows you in real time exactly how much money your total home or office electricity usage is costing you. These monitors can help you reduce your electricity consumption by as much as 20% simply by showing you what you are using. Sailwider-SmartPower is a developer and manufacturer of electricity power monitor and controlling system.

uni-directional (1-way) electricity power energy monitors

Most electricity energy monitors in the market are uni-directional (1-way) only, that means you can only get energy consumption information from the monitor. The bi-directional (2-way) electricity power monitoring and control system from Sailwider-SmartPower makes the user not only able to monitor the electricity usage, but also can easily remote control the connected electrical appliances wirelessly, providing great convenience to electricity efficiency management.

home energy management system (HEMS)

Electronics That Are Sucking Electricity Even When Not In Use

Have you ever looked at your electricity bill and wondered “Huh, am i really using all this electricity? I can’t believe it!”? You may have not known this, but  you may only be responsible for about 70% of that electricity bill. The remaining 30% could be  all your electric equipment sucking electricity even when you are not using them. The electricity used by them when not in use is probably only a small amount, but the number of electronics that we all buy and the fact that they are connected to the grid 24×7 adds up to a substantial amount of electric energy being wasted for nothing. This energy wastage goes by  many different terms like vampire power, phantom load and standby power sucker.

Here are examples of some common electronic equipment, that we use in our daily lives, wasting energy when not in use.

  • Television – The idiot box is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to sucking unnecessary power. Almost all modern day manufactured televisions have a “standby” mode where your TV is not actually turned off. It is just in a waiting mode, so that when you press on the remote it will immediately come back to life.
  • DVD players – Like TVs, DVD players are also on standby mode when plugged in and not being used. Most DVD players will have a lit screen displaying either the time or the mode that it currently is in.
  • Computers and Computer Monitors – I hate it when i am driving on the road and can see computer screens in buildings displaying screen savers. Why cant people just turn off their computers and computer monitors when not being used? Are you unplugging your laptop after you turn it off? Laptops will continue to charge their batteries even after they are turned off but when still plugged in. Make sure you are switching off your computer monitor after you turn off the computer otherwise the monitor just goes to a standby mode.
  • Cell Phone Chargers and Power Adapters – Your cell phone charger and power adapters (like for laptops) are using power even when they do not have a device plugged into them. So if you are not charging your cell phone or using a device that needs the power adapter,  just unplug them.
  • Microwaves – They make our lives so much easier by heating up our food in minutes. They display time on a digital display and usually have a lighted screen. The screen is lighted and time displayed even when you are not using the microwave oven. This is unnecessary and a total waste of electricity. How many clocks does one need in a house?
  • Stoves – Like microwaves, stoves also have a digital display and a lighted screen that is using electricity even when the stove is not turned on.
  • Hand-held vacuum cleaners – The constant charging of hand held vacuum cleaners is also using electricity. Even though they are handy and ready to use when you need them, the constant charging takes up a substantial bit of electricity.

Steps you can take to stop/reduce unnecessary sucking of electricity

The most easiest solution to save money and stop unnecessary usage of electricity would be to unplug devices and equipments that are not being used. Plug them into an electric outlet only when need be. Using of power strips is a good idea for TVs, DVRs and DVD players as they are all probably being used at the same time. You can turn off one switch that controls the power strip and in turn automatically control power to each of those devices.

Also, remember to unplug all these devices and especially the stoves and microwaves when you are on a holiday or out for an extended period of time.


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