You use the remote to turn off the television, flick the light switch off and head to bed. All is quiet in the house.
But that silence and apparent inactivity is misleading. In the background, in most rooms you probably have at least one home appliance or device, on standby, quietly continuing to drain electricity.
This is part of what’s known as ‘Phantom Load’, and it’s not just a night-time spectre. Whenever you leave an appliance on standby - rather than switching it off at the plug - it continues to drain energy. According to Energy Saving Trust research, between 9-16% of the electricity consumed in homes is used to power appliances when they are in this standby mode. This wastage can add up to £86 to an annual electricity bill.
Standby energy consumption varies by device
In 2017 comparison site MoneySuperMarket looked at the annual cost of running over 130 household items. It found the most expensive household items to leave on standby over one year are as follows:
- Digital TV box (left on) - £25.91
- Multi-room speakers (in idle mode) - £19.66
- Router (left on) - £5.37
- Microwave (left on) - £3.24
- Digital clock (left on) - £1.83
- TV (on standby) - £1.23
- Coffee maker (left on) - £1.20
- Phone charger (plugged in, not charging) - £0.27
These costs are an average and will depend on your individual circumstances: if you have older, less efficient devices, your standby bill will be higher than if you have modern, efficient ones. This is partly because of the introduction of stricter EU rules in 2013 and 2017 about how much power home appliances and devices are allowed to consumer while on standby or switched off.
Devices you choose to keep on
Your Phantom Load isn’t just those devices that you leave on standby, but also includes those that you consciously choose to leave running. Obvious ones are fridges and freezers. Another may be your digital TV (set-top) box, the biggest standby offender according to MoneySuperMarket’s research, if yours is set to record programmes and series. If you have an immersion heater running in the background, that can also sap a lot of power.
Many of the appliances on the list aren’t ones that we tend to think to turn off. Over half (55%) of people interviewed by MoneySuperMarket admitted they’ve never once turned their wireless router off, even when they went on holiday. Of course, for some people, there may be good reason for this as they need to leave their router on so they can communicate with any smart home devices.
It’s easy to forget to turn things off at the plug, or you might avoid it because it’s a hassle: almost a quarter (24%) of Brits told MoneySuperMarket that turning off appliances takes too much time.
If this is you, then try focusing your time on switching off just the worst standby culprits. Here are some other ways to tackle your phantom load:
- Get Loop: before you can reduce your phantom load, you need to identify what devices you need to unplug. Loop provides live data on energy use and can calculate your live phantom load.
- Invest in standby savers: these devices enable you to turn off multiple plugs at once.
- Involve the whole family: if you simply forget to turn your devices off standby, then make it part of bedtime routine, and involve the whole family; many kids are budding eco-warriors, so if you explain phantom load to kids, they may turn out to be eager helpers.
- Put what you can on the same multi-socket extension: so it can all be switched off in one go.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone or laptop endlessly charging: they continue to sap energy even when fully-loaded. Use a smart plug, which stops the electricity flow once the battery is fully charged.
- Check to see if devices you might want to leave on have Eco modes:
- many set-top boxes can be scheduled to go to sleep every night, whilst you can adjust the brightness of the lights on many wireless routers.
- you can also change settings on your phone, laptop, PC or Server to make them more energy efficient. For laptops and phones this also helps them to last longer between charges.
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