Appliances always on standby? Here’s what it means for your electricity bill.

It might be convenient, but what’s the true cost of standby – to your energy bills, and to the world?

Little red standby lights: take a wander around your house at night and you’ll see them staring out from your TV, router, games consoles. In the age of the remote control it’s convenient to switch things off from the comfort of your sofa and busy lives mean we’re charging phones, toothbrushes and laptops all night long.

Well, you may be surprised to discover that leaving appliances on standby can have a major effect on your electricity bills – even if your items aren’t in use, those little red lights will be quietly running up your energy costs.

What is standby mode?

Standby mode is when an appliance isn’t in full use, but isn’t totally turned off. This could mean that it seems off, but hasn’t been totally shut down. Perhaps it’s running in idle, or using a screensaver, or standby could even refer to an item that is plugged in to charge unnecessarily.

Even though appliances in standby mode look turned off, they’ll still be using energy – often simply to power a small light. In some cases, particularly with games consoles, they’ll be using almost as much energy when in standby as they do when in full use.

How much electricity does leaving appliances on standby use?

In 2010 the Energy Savings Trust estimated that each UK household spends around £50 – £86 a year, powering appliances left in standby mode or not in use. It’s worth noting that newer appliances use less energy than older ones, but we use more technology than ever, so households are still wasting money by not switching off an electrical item at the mains when it’s not in use.

How much electricity does a TV use?

According to Defra, an LCD TV uses about 96.9 watts of electricity when on. The average household watches 2,006 of TV a year which would cost around £36.92* in electricity.

We’re all guilty of leaving the TV in standby mode from time to time. When in standby mode, a LCD uses about 1.9 watts. By switching your TV off when you’re not watching it, you could save around £0.27 in electricity bills over a year. It may not seem like much on its own but quickly adds up when you consider all of the devices you leave in standby mode year round!

How much electricity does a computer use?

A desktop computer uses about 67.2 watts of electricity. On average, we spend 1649 hours using the computer which would cost the average household £21.05 in electricity over the course of a year.

Defra’s study showed that the average Brit left their desktops in standby mode for 3407 hours instead of saving electricity and shutting it down entirely. A simple flick of a switch would save the average household around £3.62 over the year.

How much electricity does a laptop use?

A laptop uses about half the amount of electricity as a desktop, about 32.3 watts. When in standby mode, a laptop uses very little electricity- around 1.6 watts to be exact. The average UK household clocked about 7374 hours of usage which would equate to around £45.25 in electricity bills.

How much electricity does Alexa use?

According to Amazon, Alexa when in networked mode uses around 3.6 watts of electricity. This mode means that Alexa is connected to the internet and is actively listening for your voice commands. If you consider this gadget has to remain on for 24/7 to be able to respond to your requests this could soon add up!

The environmental cost of those little red lights

There’s a much greater cost associated with leaving things on standby; needless energy use means unnecessary carbon emissions. Electricity is made from burning fossil fuels like coal, and when you burn coal CO2 is created. So, the more electricity required, the more coal is burnt and the more CO2 is made.

What is a standby saver?

Looking like a multi-socket power adaptor, electricity standby savers are designed to help you switch several appliances off at the mains at the same time. So, for example, you could plug your TV, set top box and games consoles into one and use a remote control to turn them all off at the same time without leaving anything on standby, except the standby saver.

How to reduce the cost of devices on standby

There’s a lot you can do to save on standby costs and make a real difference to your energy bills.

  • Switch off as many appliances as possible at the plug. It’s a habit that’s well worth getting into and can be worked into your daily routine when you leave your home or go to bed. Post-it notes can help you to remember as well.
  • Socket timers are handy for more than just deterring burglars. Unless you’re recording programmes during the night, you can set a socket timer to turn some of your appliances (even your router) off during the wee small hours.
  • Same goes for your mobile phone charger – try not to keep your phone plugged in while you’re sleeping. Only 5% of the power drawn by a phone charger is used to charge the phone – the other 95% is wasted when it’s left plugged in.
  • Find out the real energy zapping culprits by using a Smart meter – tweak your habits to make savings throughout the year.
  • Get the family involved and give an extra treat, a star on their good behaviour chart, or a day out with the money you’ll save… get the rest of the family to do the work.

Find out more ways you can save on your gas and electricity usage on our energy efficiency pages.

*Standby costs are based on devices being left on standby using an average standard electricity price of 19p/kWh. Figures are correct as of March 2018.