November 20, 2009

Stop Wasting Money for Electricity on Unused Electronics

If I look around my house there are electronics plugged in everywhere. Off the top of my head we've got : 3 digital clocks, microwave oven, coffee maker, 4 phones and answering machine, toaster, 2-4 phone chargers, big screen TV, HD DVR, HD DVD player, Tivo, Wii, stereo amp, another stereo, 2 computers, 19" TV, DVD/VCR, internet modem, printer and a home security system. Some of those items are in pretty frequent use but others are only rarely used. Whether they are in use or not at any given time they are probably all using at least a small amount of power. Virtually all modern electronics have some power draw in standby mode. That standby mode power usage of your electronics is costing you money around the clock.

The exact usage of each device will vary. You'd have to actually measure your own devices or check their specifications for a standby power rating to find out exactly how much power your electronics are sucking while off. For reference a I found a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory page that has some data on standby power consumption of typical home electronics.

Here are a few example items with their standby power usage and the amount you'd spend on electricity if the item was plugged in but unused for a year:

Microwave oven = 3 W = $2.60
Game console = 1 W = $0.87
Desktop Computer = 2.8W = $2.45
Multi function inkjet printer = 5.26W = $4.61
Cable set top box = 17.5W = $15.33

Of course some of these you'd likely be using some of the time. But even if you used them 8 hours a day then you'd be off 2/3 of the time. So your cable set top box may be costing you $10 a year in electricity while its off.

Looking at the devices in my home that I don't need to be in standby at all I'd list them (with standby power in Watts): microwave oven (3W), 2-4 phone chargers, (4 x 0.26W) big screen TV (6W), HD DVD player (1.5W), Wii (1W), 2 stereo2 (2 x .27W), 2 computers (2x 2.8W), 19" TV (2.8W), DVD/VCR (5W), multi function printer (5.2W)

My Total use = 31.26W = $27.75 annual cost at 0% use or $18.50 at 33% use I'm wasting up to $18.50 a year in standby electricity power unnecessarily

What to do about it? Simple answer is to unplug stuff but there are other ways.

How To Keep Electronics From Using Standby Power

Unplug items when not in use - Simply unplug the item when they are not being used. This is pretty straight forward and will work just fine for many items. But it can be a bit of a hassle to unplug something everytime you turn it off and its likely you could forget to do so.

Use a power strip with on/off switch - If you have a computer setup with a computer, printer, speakers, etc. then you can plug all the items into a power strip and then power down the power strip. Rather than having to unplug each device individually you can just hit a single switch. This is easier than unplugging everything but you could still forget.

Use a Smart Power Strip - Over a year ago I talked about how I had bought a Smart Power Strip and figured I was saving about $18 a year with it. A Smart Power Strip will automatically turn off power to your accessory devices when you shut off a primary device. So for example you can set it up with your computer so that when you turn off your computer the strip will automatically also then power off your printer, speakers, etc. This one is a good solution since you can't forget to turn off your accessories since its automatic.

Bye Bye Standby Remote switch
- This is a combination of AC socket adapters and a remote control switch. You plug the AC adapter into the wall then plug your electronics into the adapter. You can then turn the AC outlet on/off via a remote. This is handy for items like your TV entertainment center or other items where you might want easy access to the on/off for the power. While its very convenient its not automatic so you might forget to turn off your devices.

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