Blog Post Sunday 05 April 2020
There’s nothing worse than receiving a scary energy bill. And when it arrives, you may run through in your head everything you did that month and not find anything that could account for how high your bill is - but did you take into account standby power?
Standby power - also known as ‘phantom load’ or, scarier still, ‘vampire power’ - is the energy that is used while your devices are turned off, but still plugged in. Thanks to improvements in product design, standby power use in Australia has reduced by 68% in the past decade. But despite this decrease, vampire power still accounts for a staggering 5.9% of Australia’s total residential electricity use.
According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australians spend $860 million on standby power annually. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly $100 per household each year. Every household is different, and the amount you spend on vampire power will vary depending on the number and type of appliances left on standby, the appliance efficiency ratings and your electricity rate. But no matter which way you slice it, there’s a lot of money and energy being drained by phantom consumption.
Appliances which are turned off, yet still display the time or can be activated by remote control or internal timers, are typically in ‘passive standby’ mode when not in use. Ovens which display a digital clock or air conditioners with internal timers are common examples. Of course, the amount of electricity that the appliance requires is usually minor, just enough to power sensors that enable it to be switched back on. But not all appliances are so simple. As technology advances, appliances are using more and more sophisticated background functions which require greater use of phantom power.
Gaming consoles routinely download content, run automatic Wi-Fi checks, and require complex standby sensors to enable them to be turned on by remote control or even voice activation. These devices are capable of consuming more than 5W of electricity hourly while in standby mode. Indeed, 60% of electricity consumption in Australian homes is due to home entertainment and computer appliances.
Devices like microwaves or dishwashers are usually on ‘active standby’ - which occurs when the device is turned on but not in use. Other examples might be a DVD player that is switched on without playing a disc. Shockingly, devices in active standby mode cost you five to ten times more in electricity than those in passive standby mode. A gaming console on active standby uses an average of 5.4W of power per hour, clocking an extra 0.15 cents of electricity every 60 minutes. Forgetting to turn off your gaming consoles and DVD players at the power socket when you go on holiday could be a costly mistake.
So who are the main vampire power culprits to watch out for? Top of the list for standby consumption are:
You might be surprised to know that DVD players and televisions consume relatively small amounts of phantom power, with standby costs being typically around the $5 mark for an entire year. That being said, in a world where households rarely have only one screen, this wasted energy use can add up quickly.
Your wireless modem is also a nasty user of phantom power. But seeing as it’s technically ‘in use’ all the time, it may not be the most practical device to shut off every day. If you are looking to cut costs, consider turning off your modem when you head to work in the morning, and definitely if you go away on holiday.
You might not feel the pinch of standby electricity immediately - a few dollars here and there can easily go unnoticed. But when those costs are compounded, year after year, multiplied by millions of Australians - there’s a lot of money and energy going to waste. When you factor in the environmental impact too, there are plenty of reasons to get motivated to take these simple steps to reduce your standby energy costs.
With these simple steps to reduce standby power consumption, banishing the ‘vampires’ and ‘phantoms’ lurking in your household appliances is not so scary after all. Addressing your use of standby power can have a noticeable impact on your energy usage over time, reducing the scare-factor when you open that winter electricity bill.