Convential wisdom says that you should turn appliances off at the switch to save on energy. However, is this still the case with smart devices and improvements to technology?
Yes - because all those appliances which are waiting with baited breath for your next command on ‘stand-by’ are using up a surprising amount of power. So if you aren’t going to use anything which can be turned on by a remote (TVs, PVRs, air con,… etc) for any significant time, turn it off at the power.
Even appliances which don’t have a remote, but need to be turned on at the appliance such as washing machines can use up power while supposedly turned off.
While the usage of each individual appliance may not be much, when you aggregate all the appliances, and add up the costs for a year it can become significant. This is money which would be better in your pocket than in the pocket of the energy provider, and you would be helping the environment.
Excuse me, I have to go and turn off some power points…
I don’t believe there is any real savings in power consumption with modern electronics these days by turning the GPO switch off.
If one is doing it in case of storm damage, it would be safer to remove the power plug from the GPO.
And in the case of microwave ovens, alarm clocks, DVD & Blu-ray recorders and anything else with a clock function, you have to go to the trouble of resetting the time when they are turned back on.
More trouble than it is worth to save a miniscule amount of power.
Our solar and battery system could not care less.
So we have one for and one against, who is right?
Perhaps we could use some facts to decide. I would but I don’t have the raw data.
If somebody who has the raw data could come up with say the minimum and typical standby running cost for range of common appliances and put it together we could all decide:
X dollars a year is too much or X dollars a year is OK for the level of convenience.
Without numbers we are just whistling dixie.
Would such an aggregation of testing data make a good Choice article?
Yes, all devices should be turned off at the powerpoint, not at the device. There are a few exceptions which include things like medical monitors/devices, security devices (e.g. security cameras) and emergency devices (e.g. smart emergency buttons).
Many devices have electronic on/off switches and also use power when not in use and still consume power when the device button is off. This power use if sometimes called standby power but can also be more than that…many desktop PCs for example retail power to USB ports to allow charging when the desktop is turned off. This consumes power in addition to the standby power the desktop also consumes.
Other advantages in turning off completely other than just at the devices button is these devices are less susceptible to being fried in a lightning storm. In the case of storms, almost anything electronic should also be possibly unplugged from the wall to protect them from lightning surges which can render a device dead.
Even modern smart devices consume power even when not plugged in. Even though standby power has been gradually decreasing in the past decade, typical new smart TVs consume 2-3W when not turned off at the wall (can be more if one has the TV set up for faster start ups), games consume 5-6W, washing machines anywhere from zero (old on off button types) to 6+W for the electronic button types, wireless modems can be anywhere from 7-30+W. With other appliances which as computers, clothes driers, dishwashers, HiFi systems, DVD players, microwave/conventional ovens etc, the total amount of power consumed in a modern home with modern appliances can still be significant (can be in the order of 50-150W…equivalent to running about 5-15 led lights all the time.
The cost for a home is significant an can be anywhere from $100-400 per year.
If one can’t get to a power point, buy a power board with switches and place these in a location easily accessible so that one can control what is on and off. such as this one where each powerpoint can be controlled separately:
They are reasonably cheap to buy and pay for themselves quickly.
We have multiple such powerboards around the house. An example is there is one for the TV, DVD and AVR. This allows us to only turn on those devices which are being used at that particular time, while others are power pointed off.
There are many urban myths of why not to turn off an appliance/smart device at the wall but these arguments are usually generated from laziness rather than the fact, I have heard that it kills samrt devices quicker (don’t know how as usually electronics life is dependent on time not number of on-off cycles (this myth could have resulted from CFL where the ballast can fail after a large number of uses). There is also claims that power surges caused by turning off and then turning on can fry electronics…but most modern smart devices sit on the other side of a power transformer which regulates the supply to the device, that it wastes time waiting for a device to turn on from being fully off (most new devices have fast startup times and a few extra seconds isn’t going to kill anyone/anything etc.
May modern smart devices, such as TVs, PVRs, digital clock radios, cordless phones, smart phones, tablets etc obtain their time from signals they receive…so there is not a compelling reason to leave them on to save the effort of restiing the clock each time it is turned on.
Many other devices such as microwaves, ovens etc which show times will also work without a time being set. How many clocks in a house does one need to tell the time? Turning such devices will save money and also won’t affect their functionality if the time is not set.
My digital clock radio has an “ Automatic updating of the clock “, but the ancient VCR/DVD needs a very tedious reset which I don’t like to go through too often especially the time reset which is difficult to get just right because of the time it takes before it’s all done.
Fridge, cook top, oven, are on all the time.
Washing machine is off, microwave is off.
It would be interesting to see the exact savings of switching off at the power point,
but I remember when my flat was vacant for an extended time and no power or lights were used at all, I still got a substantial bill for just having the power on!
Hi @phb, TVs are an energy-efficiency-regulated product in Australia, and that level of consumption sounds rather high. Could you point me to your source for that figure ?
When I was a youngster I used to stay with my grand parents . My grand mother would always go on patrol just before bed time to check that the low wall mounted power points above the carpet were turned off . A friend had told her leaving them on faded the carpet .
Our 9 or 10yo Samsung smart TV only uses 1W (measured) when turned off but still plugged in. Leaving it plugged in is not an issue, and the minuscule amount of energy used is all from our off-grid solar system anyway. Our not quite so old laptop computers with larger monitors also consume similar minimal energy when off but plugged in, so they are left that way except in storms.
My wife’s old stereo player uses more power when turned off than on(!), so it was never left on at the power point, but we haven’t used it in years.
A few fans, the Bosch washing machine, my aquaponics water chiller are also minimal (as in zero or barely measurable) power consumers when turned off but plugged in, so even though we are off-grid, we are happy to leave all devices apart from the microwave/oven and induction cooktop plugged in when turned off, although they only use a few watts each too, it’s more about making the LED displays last longer.
You’ve just reminded me of the grandmother of my friend in high school - she used to say, “Put that light bulb back in the socket ! The electricity is leaking out !”
I sourced fhe info from Canstar article from last yesr…
Maybe their figures are a little out of date?
Have just looked at some of the manufacturer websites and it is difficult to get information on standby or even operational power uses.
Energy rating has cost of use, but couldn’t find specific information on standby power.
Thank you. I’ll see if I can find out who/what their source was.
I have managed to find some standby power consumptions, here are some samples for current model smart TVs (note, I was unable to find the specs from some manufacturers),
- Sony Z9F Series - about 0.5W
- Sony 4K OLED - 0.5W
- Sony A9F Series - 0.5 W
- Panasnic OLED 4K 0.5W
- Samsung OLED - 0.5W
It appears that from the Canstar reporting of standby for TVs, the latest generation of TVs have a standby of about 0.5W. While this may not seem much, over a year it corresponds to about 4.4kW per year (about $1.30 for $0.30/KW power tariff).
While this might seem much from a individual point of view, if one assumes that each of the 8.5 million households all have new generation TVs on standby this would correlate to about 37 MW per year ($11M) or about 37,000 tonnes of CO2e (of coal if one assumes one kW = 1kg coal) being burnt unnecessarily to provide this power. The figures are likely to be significantly higher than this due to multiple TV households and many households having previous generation TVs with higher standby power. The 37mW is also generation capacity also lost from other opportunities and could result in all Australian paying marginally higher electricity prices to cater for this long term demand.
So yes, if every Australian turned their TVs off at the power point, then there could be considerable cost savings across the community as well as a significant saving in CO2s.
Are you sure?
Assuming my maths is correct…
8,500,000 * 0.5W = 4.25MW
- 365 days * say 20 hours per day when not being watched = ~31GWh per year.
To put into context, that’s about 1 hour’s worth of generation in Australia, out of about 201,000GWh generated in the National Electricity Market (WA not included) for the year. The NEM is currently running at about 20% wind + solar (mostly thanks to SA’s near 50% renewables), so ~25GWh is from fossil fuel burning.
Still, rather a lot of fossil fuel being turned into pollution due to not bending down to the power point, but paling into insignificance compared to the rest of the electricity consumption in Australia, being just 0.01% of the total. I’m sure there are plenty of other standby vampires are sucking significantly more energy than that!
Yes, I calculated based on 24 hours and not likely time in standby. 20 hours average per day seems reasonable…but many friends seems to have their TV on (not watching) far more than 4 hours. Maybe in reality the standby/not actively consumed power is higher if the TV is not being watched.
Any standby power no matter how small it seems, is worth savings as it is unnecessary energy waste. The only time not to use a powerpoint would be if the appliance used zero electricity when it was turned off using the devices buttons. Otherwise, it should be turned off at the wall.
That is a subjective judgement. Some would say that a few dollars a year is worth it for the convenience.
After all you don’t have to have a washing machine you could do it by hand, having a machine is just for the convenience. There are so many labour saving devices we could do without in a pinch.
We all make judgements about what we will pay for convenience.
So then I choose to pay for the convenience of having my oven, cooktop, fridge and hot water tank (down in the garage) permanently plugged in and turned on (I am willing to pay the extra dollar to not have to drag the oven out of the wall to flick the switch of it and the cook top, heft the fridge across the kitchen floor or run up and down three flights of stairs to the water heater). However, I am not willing to pay for lamps, TV, computer, washing machine, and sundry other electrical goods like the kettle, HI Fi etc. They all get turned off at the wall. :-}
Therein lies the rub, the convenience as determined by a particular person. One may prefer the computer to remain in a very low power state for a faster response when it is required, others may be happy with a slightly slower response of having to first switch it on at the wall. The kettle when it is off though hopefully uses no power until a circuit is completed by depressing the switch on it. Some people use a master slave arrangement where the powerboard has all the devices connected but the powerboard does not enable power to the slave devices until the master device is switched on or comes out of a low power state. While this uses some very small amount of power it saves having to turn on a whole slew of devices when you want to use say a home theatre setup.
From the Emerald Planet Smart Solutions website FAQ section comes this piece of advice about these types of power boards:
"With the Powerboard for Computers you can plug your computer and all the associated appliances you use with your computer into the device (Usually this is your printer, monitor, speakers, external hard drives, etc.)
With the Powerboard for TV/AV you can plug your TV and all the associated appliances you use with your TV into the device (Usually this is your DVD player, games console, set top box, home entertainment systems, speakers, stereo surround sound etc.)
With both the Computer and AV/TV Powerboard you can plug other appliances like lights, radios, and clocks etc. that are close to your computer or TV/AV system into the Powerboard. They do not have to be a typical computer or TV/AV add-on like those mentioned above. Just remember, that if you plug these devices into the Slave sockets they will only be available for use when the TV or Computer ‘Master’ devices are in a high power mode (like ON).
For more information on which appliance should be plugged into which socket, refer to the FAQ, “How do I decide what appliances to plug into which sockets?”"
"Normal Socket– Plug peripheral computer or TV/AV appliances in here that you want to remain connected to mains power at all times.
In an AV/TV environment this can apply to Pay TV units, DVD and/or Video Recorders on which you pre-program recordings ahead of time, TiVo on which you pre-program the recording at specific times of future TV programs, or any other appliance relying on a continuous timer or clock.
NOTE: Some projectors have a step down process when they are turned off which allows the projectors lights to cool gradually after use. These appliances should be plugged into the normal socket.
In a Computing environment some people may want their computer to remain connected to the internet even when they are not using their computer and may plug their modem into the Normal socket.
Master Socket – For an AV/TV Powerboard, plug your TV into the Master socket. When your TV is in Low Power Mode the powerboard will use this as a signal to disconnect mains power from the TV Master and all the Slave appliances.
For a Computer Powerboard, plug your Computer in here. When the Computer is in a low power mode (OFF, or SLEEP, or HIBERNATE are common examples) the device will disconnect mains power from the Slave appliances.
Note: a computer plugged into the Master socket is never disconnected from mains power so it can continue to function as it normally would in low power modes (like SLEEP or HIBERNATE). There is no possibility of lost work in open work files as a result of using the device.
Slaves Socket –Plug other peripheral computer or TV/AV appliances in here.
In an AV/TV environment, when the TV Master is turned into a low power mode (OFF or STANDBY are often common examples) the device will disconnect mains power to these Slave appliances. (Usually this is your DVD player, games console, set top box, home entertainment systems, speakers, stereo surround sound etc.).
In a computer environment, when the Computer Master is in a low power mode (OFF, SLEEP or HIBERNATE are often common examples) the device will disconnect mains power to these Slave appliances. (Usually this is your printer, monitor, speakers, external hard drives, etc.)".
Not all we use needs to be an all out off or an all out on if some of the newer technology available is used wisely. Of course there are circumstances where an all on or off is useful or preferred but as many indicate above in today’s world it is hard to avoid some “standby” power usage.
I am a pensioner living on my own. When power prices started going through the roof a few years ago I started rethinking this very topic.I took a look around my home and thought about ways to save.
These are my adjustments and not all will work for everyone, however they have helped me and my power bill is approx $40 per fortnight.
I decided I didnt need a second freezer, so got rid of it.
I bought a wind up clock, a couple mins a day to wind it, no power. I use my phone to set alarms.
I bought those power boards with individual switches. Now my charging cables still sit there, waiting to be used, but turned off. I can also turn on things I need as I need.
I turn on kettle, toaster, microwave etc only when using them. I have to turn the actual appliance on anyway so instead of one switch, I turn on two (power point and appliance) really, no extra time.
I set my tv etc up differently…
There are two power points behind each has a power board attached…not practical here for reaching behind for individual switches.
Powerboard one, stays on 24/7 it has the modem , fetch box and choice testing box.
Powerboard two has the TV, soundbar, sub and is turned on when I watch TV, then off at end of night.
Washing machine and dryer turned on when being used.
So I have only my fridge and one powerboard (modem etc) on 24/7. Everything else is set up to turn on as needed.
Its like anything new, the habit needs to be formed. But I noticed an overall very nice drop in my power costs. And I still use my heater and aircon whenever I need them without skimping.
I’m wondering whether spa baths use stand-by power? There’s no access to a plug (electric) to pull out…