CHOICE membership

Should you turn appliances off at the powerpoint?


We used to have next door neighbours with an outdoor spa bath, it used prodigious amounts of electricity keeping the water hot, giving them a massive bill every quarter- well over $1000, until they stopped leaving it on.
If yours has no cord and plug, there should still be an electrical switch to turn it off somewhere close by. If you cant find it, perhaps it has its own circuit, and you can turn it off at the switchboard - it should be labelled.


That’s very interesting! We are renting, don’t use the spa bath, and have been hit with an enormous power bill. There’s no switch in the bathroom, but intriguingly there’s a switch on the switchboard labelled ‘Spare’ which is on…do I dare try switching it off?


Hmmm, hard to say from this distance :slight_smile:
Can you find a spec plate on the spa- it’s rating in kW is what you need to know.
What rating is the “spare” circuit breaker?

Depending on what sort of mains electrical meter you have, you could see what happens by switching spare off while power use rate is high- it might be the spa if the power consumption suddenly drops. It depends whether the heater thermostat is on or off at the time though.

In any case, turning the CB off shouldn’t be any sort of issue, other than making sure any fridge or freezer compressors don’t stall. Turning it off and on within 15 sec is usually ok, but if it stalls (can usually hear a different sound from it), just leave it off for ~20 mins before turning back on. However, if it’s a funky new fridge full of electronics, it’s hard to know how it might react- I have no experience with them!


There’s no access to anything about the spa. The controls would be behind a board that’s up the outside wall. The ‘spare’ is 10 amps.
Thanks for your advice. I’ll try switching the ‘spare’ off. Luckily we don’t have a funky new fridge.


The spec plate should be on the spa somewhere. Is there any brand and model number visible? Specs should online somewhere.
A 10A CB will only run a 2300/2400W load, so I suspect that isn’t it, unless it only has a small element (depends on volume of water to be heated). 10A circuits are more likely to be lights.

If it is a significant load, then it should have its own accessible switch or own dedicated CB and circuit - like a stove or electric HWS.

Of course, another test is to feel if the water is hot :wink:


It looks like we cannot escape getting billed once we get the electricity connected to our premises, even if there’s no usage at all.
There’s the Daily Supply fee
The Pass trough fees on behalf of the distributors
The paper bill fee
The over the counter fee
The payment processing fee if debit/credit card is used
Dishonour fee for cheque/ direct debit failed payments …
and there could be many other fees at the Energy company discretion!


I think it is necessary to clarify whether your spa bath has water in it all the time or not, because you didn’t say.

If it has water in it all the time it is more than likely running on a thermometer and using power to keep the water warm.

If it is simply one of those small ones that are sometimes used in conjunction with a shower in lieu of a bath; I wouldn’t think it uses power when not turned on by the button on the spa.


Brendan. Thanks for asking this important question and sorry for the late response.
Sticking only to the issue of power consumption, in my case the answer with 2 Fijitsu split systems installed in 2003 and 2007, and still working well, is emphatically YES.
Each of the outside units use about 100w when on standby (to keep the sump oil warm).
So, I switch the outside units off when they are unlikely to be used. This has substantially reduced annual power consumption.
I understand that most newer air conditioners have a much lower power use when in stand by mode, so the savings from switching the outside units off when not needed may be much lower. However, if anyone does switch off I strongly recommend that they first establish whether there is minimum period of time after switching back on before the air con should be used for cooling or heating, and comply with it. It is false economy to save small amounts on power consumption in stand by mode and end up with a big bill for a repair or replacement.


Spot on. I remember many tears ago there was an article which stated it required a very large power station in America just to keep appliances on stand-by. My tv has a separate on-off button apart from the remote and I use that to isolate the power. It all adds up!


@OldGal You had me right up to when you said had a dryer :astonished:.


LOL, unfortunately the clothes line at my unit is on a south facing wall, with another wall parallel a few meters away. In our cold damp winters no sun so no dry. Unit is very tiny and the dryer is used a few times each winter for sheets, towels etc. I prefer air dried any time, alas, not always possible.


Our approach to appliances.

If it is a dumb appliance, which most of them are, it does not matter. Eg lamps, toaster, kettle etc.

If it is a smart appliance, and typically draws some power so that it can turn on via the remote, they are typically left on at the wall. Eg TV, air cons, microwave for the clock. The balance is between ease of use and avoidance of startup issues vs cost of power. The phone chargers are also left in the power board and usually drawing standby as well.

Some things are always on. Eg house water pump and UV steriliser, the fridge and the internet modem/router. The last dislikes being turned on and off, or precisely the DSLAM in the Telstra exchange does not play well with the modem if it is off for any length of time! Neither does the home security system appreciate loosing coms, armed or disarmed!

We might save some power by putting the extra effort into turning a few of these off. As most are used more than daily, and our power points are all at skirting board level except for kitchen bench convenience wins.

From taking readings from the power meter before and after going away, we have determined that we loose approx 0.5kWh per day to the modem, Security System, gas water heater controller, one LED room light and all the fugitive loads. We put a meter on the fridge which was the only major appliance left on to determine its usage over the same period.

At an approximation the modem and house alarm system are at least 60% of the stray loads. Saving 200Wh x 365days less actual usage time puts the potential savings at 75kWh or less. Costed at 30c per unit of power that is approx $22.50 pa.

If there are any benefits in turning off and unplugging a device from the socket. The action will provide good protection from power surges and lightning strikes. Simply turning a smart or standby device off at the wall may also extend the life of the item - however we have little first hand experience to support this as a cause of early failure. Theory vs observation, it’s worth a Choice survey perhaps?


This is something I was quite interested in, as well as general power usage. I bought a couple of TP-Link power meters to test various things.

What I found was that most of the items I tested use a ridiculously small amount of power when in standby, most calculated at less than a cent a month.

Microwave, washing machine, tv, toaster all negligible. Not enough to worry about. TV used the most, but still amounted to such a low amount. If you want to fight global warming, there are far better things to worry about.

I highly recommend these power meters, they’re fantastic for working out your energy costs and how much some devices use.


My daily usage fee is approx. $1.60/ day, domestic and off peak, that’s $584/year. This fee can not be reduced even if my power consumption drops to zero. My 1.5 kwatt solar system provides approx. 2400 kwhrs/year. So any standby power that my appliances use is miniscule compared the other built in fees on my bill. So I choose not WORRY ABOUT IT.