Technology has come a long way in a very short time, with new advancements being made every day to make our lives easier.
One convenient advancement has been the introduction of ‘standby mode’, a handy feature for many appliances and pieces of tech that puts the item to sleep rather than forcing you to shut down and restart.
While convenience is a great thing to boast about, it comes at a cost (quite literally). So, how much energy do these “vampire appliances” consume under the guise of standby? Let’s take a look at standby energy use and why Australians everywhere are throwing away money for the sake of convenience.
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What is Standby Power?
Often referred to as ‘phantom load’ or ‘vampire power’, standby power refers to the energy that’s consumed by appliances that appear to be turned off but could easily be fired up at the flick of a switch or the touch of a button on your remote control.
This could range from air conditioners that are still switched on at the power outlet on the wall even though it’s winter, to phone chargers still plugged into your 100% charged phone.
Standby energy consumption can be split into two groups: Active standby and Passive standby.
- Active standby – Appliances that are turned on but are not actively being used (e.g. DVD players, game consoles, clothes dryers, answering machines etc.)
- Passive standby – Appliances that are turned off but are able to start up immediately from a button or remote control (e.g. TVs, electronic devices, digital video recorders, stereos etc.)
How Much Does Standby Power Cost?
Standby power from appliances is not going to drain your home’s energy dry, but everything tallies up, leading homes across Australia to attribute up to 10% of their electricity bill to standby power, according to EnergyAustralia.
The overall cost of standby energy usage depends on how many appliances are in the household and how many are simply left on standby every day. The appliance energy efficiency ratings and the electricity rate you pay is also attributed to the dollar value owed on an energy bill.
The average home with 10 standard appliances could spend as much as $90 per year on wasted electricity, with the standby cost being raised depending on the specifications of the appliance.
Every appliance will come with specifications in the instruction manual, which can then be used to estimate the annual standby power use of the appliance (look for the power listed in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW).
For this example, we’ll use a standard air conditioner with a standard power consumption of 2W.
- First, convert W to kW by dividing it by 1,000 (eg. 2 divided by 1,000 = 0.002kW)
- Next, find your hourly kilowatt rate by checking your bill (for this example, let’s say it comes to 28.7 cents per kWh)
- Now multiply the standby power by the energy tariff to find the hourly standby cost eg. 0.002 x 28.7 = 0.0574 cents per hour
- Estimate the hours spent in a day that the air conditioner is on standby, then multiply that amount by 365 for 365 days in the year (eg. 20 hours per day x 356 days a year = 7300 hours per year).
- Finally, multiply the number of hours by the cost per hour eg. 0.0574 x 7300 = $4.19
For more appliance examples, see below 10 of the most common appliances in an average household.
|Hourly standby usage
|Hourly standby cost
|Annual standby cost*
|7 – 10W
|0.2c – 0.29c
|$17.5 – $25.4
|1 – 6W
|0.03c – 0.17c
|$2.62 – $14.90
How Can I Reduce Standby Energy Costs?
Standby power use should be viewed the same as obvious energy-saving tropes. In the same vein as flipping the light switch off when nobody is in the room, turning off the power supply to the clothes dryer while it’s not in use seems pretty self-explanatory.
Any appliance that isn’t in use should be switched off at the power point on the wall, providing a guaranteed way to cut off standby costs and lower the phantom load on the electricity bill.
Another way to lower energy costs is by investing in energy-efficient models when purchasing new appliances. To view both electricity usage running costs and standby costs for appliances, the energy efficiency star rating system is the go-to energy saver, providing energy star ratings to determine how energy efficient an appliance is.
Investing in smart electricity boards is another great way to lower standby energy costs, as most of these power controllers come equipped with the ability to detect when an appliance has entered standby mode. Once the board detects standby mode, the electricity supply will be cut to the device and once you turn the appliance back on, the electricity supply will return.
Finally, you can adjust settings on some devices (namely televisions and gaming consoles) to minimise standby functionality, saving energy costs since the device won’t attempt to scan for Wi-Fi whilst on standby.
Concerned your electricity bill is higher than the average Australian household? Check out our blog here to compare yourself to everyone else down under! If you’re considering moving to Australia, we’ve got that covered too with our cost of living in Australia blog, which can be found here.
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