These home appliances use electricity even when they are switched off | Bot To News

According to one estimate, standby power can account for 5 to 10% of the average household’s energy use. Chris J. Bloomberg photo by Radcliffe.

Coffee makers. Television sets. Washing machines. Practically every appliance and electronic device you have plugged in at home uses some electricity — and adds to your utility bill — even when it’s not in use or turned on.

This problem is known as standby power, and it gets worse as people get more appliances, more appliances get power, and more devices become “smart” or connected to the Internet. It’s not uncommon for people to have dozens of appliances plugged into a home at any given time — from a microwave with a digital clock to a smart light bulb that syncs to an app on their phone. The power mode is not normal.

However, measuring standby power can be tricky. “There is no generally agreed-upon estimate of the portion of residential electricity consumed by standby,” said Alan Meyer, a senior scientist in the Building Technology and Urban Systems Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “because there is no agreed-upon definition and no comprehensive set of field measurements.”

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Meyer’s “best guess” is that “standby accounts for 5 to 10% of electricity use in an average American home,” though he cautions that “this will only grow over time.”

Home inspection illuminated by standby electrical appliances. Bloomberg photo by Chris Radcliffe.

Others estimate the percentage may already be higher. Ram Narayanamurthy, program manager for emerging technologies at the US Department of Energy, estimates that his own home’s baseline energy use is 20% electricity per year. His definition of base power overlaps with what others in the field say are standby power for things like Wi-Fi routers, cable modems, and voice assistants.

“Baseline energy use is something that a lot of people don’t know about, and that’s something we’re trying to better understand and focus on how we can address,” says Narayanamurthy.

One reason is to help consumers save money while noticing even small changes in their energy bills. Another is to help tackle climate change. According to the Global Status Report on Buildings and Construction released at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt last month, by 2021 the building sector will account for around 37% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Part of the drive to decarbonize buildings includes finding ways to reduce their energy use, says Narayanamurthy.

Separately, most devices don’t use much power in standby mode: in an American home today, the average standby power of a given gadget may be 3 watts or less, with many products coming in at around 1 watt or less. That’s according to a review of published literature and measurements conducted directly this year by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Low consumption appliances and home appliances include everything from air purifiers to cell phone chargers, fans and televisions.

Meanwhile, many appliances or equipment today with high average standby power levels are critical infrastructure that you don’t want to turn off for operational or safety reasons, from security systems to water heaters.

Devices that absorb electricity while you sleep are sometimes called energy vampires or vampire devices. Bloomberg photo by Chris Radcliffe.

For some appliances built with a hard mechanical on/off switch, such as some fans or kettles or laptops, the standby power can be reduced to zero. However, for many older devices, the maximum standby power is sometimes five or 10 times higher than the average.

Depending on the type of product there can also be a large range in waiting. Take video games. With the exception of the original and 360 models, various Xbox devices have standby levels from 8.6 watts. In contrast, many Nintendo and PlayStation systems have standby levels as low as 1 watt to 5.7 watts.

Complicating matters further, there is no easy way to tell what the standby power of a device is by looking at it. “That’s one of the frustrating areas — you might think it’s zero, but it’s still consuming power,” Meyer says. On newer devices, digital displays or lights can be clues that standby power isn’t zero, “but usually, there’s no way to tell without measuring,” he adds.

Once before manufacturers had to settle. In the 1980s and 1990s, a cable box or set top box used an average of 11 watts continuously, with some models using up to approximately 25 watts. VCRs used an average of 6 watts, some models used around 13 watts, and some DVD players averaged 4.2 watts, with a maximum of 12 watts. These high standby levels often result from product chargers being inefficient and wasting energy.

“People tell me all the time that their cats like to sleep in their set-top boxes because they’re so warm,” says Jennifer Amann, senior fellow at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Anything that’s hot is a sign that it’s losing power.”

These devices usually had two prongs or prongs and were so good at absorbing energy while their owners slept that they were sometimes referred to as energy vampires or vampire appliances. “It’s a good metaphor—the vampire is constantly drawing electricity,” says Meyer.

Since then, Meyer notes, “there has been extraordinary progress,” with governments implementing mandatory and voluntary programs designed to encourage manufacturers to reduce wait levels. In the U.S., for example, the government’s voluntary Energy Star program began factoring standby power into its rating and testing of some consumer products, a move Aman says has helped reduce standby loads for electronics and office equipment. Meanwhile, South Korea and countries in the European Union began requiring lower waiting periods for certain products.

All of these efforts “really changed the nature of these loads individually from being so bad,” says Wyatt Merrill, a technology manager who works on emerging technologies at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Then the nature of the problem changed. Now “mostly driven by the fact that we have more plug loads than we did twenty years ago,” says Merrill. “The new challenge is how you integrate these different burdens and think about them collectively.”

If you’re curious about your own home’s standby footprint, “The first thing I’d do is not look at your appliances, look at the electricity and smart meter and try to figure out what’s going on at 3 in the morning. ” says Meier. This will give you a sense of the low level of continuous energy consumption in a day, some of which is on standby.

If you don’t have a smart meter, portable watt meters—available online, at hardware stores, and sometimes at your local library—can measure standby levels. First, plug your meter into an outlet, then plug the device into the meter; A screen on the meter shows power usage.

The easiest way to remove standby power from a device is to unplug it completely. But experts don’t recommend it for devices that are used regularly or unlocking can pose a security risk. Meier recommends starting with seasonal equipment like lawn mowers, window unit air conditioners and snow blowers.

Other possible candidates for unpacking: small kitchen appliances, especially when you’re on vacation; spare television sets or cable boxes in unused guest rooms; And any durable VCRs or other gadgets in this space are more innovative than practical.

Those kinds of small changes can help. But going on an unplugging spree in your home isn’t a long-term solution to standby power. “These things need to be fully autonomous and do things without the user’s intervention for long periods of time. [energy] savings,” says Merrill. “I don’t think the solution is going to be behavioral.”


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