As energy costs rise, we’re all on a quest to reduce our bills: by shopping around to find cheap energy deals, by reducing our gas and electricity consumption. But even as we assiduously compare energy deals and hopscotch from one tariff to another, as we dial down the temperature on our thermostats and huddle under high tog duvets, invest in cavity wall insulation and a drying rack, we may be unknowingly throwing kilowatts, and pounds and pence, of electricity simply by leaving our appliances and devices plugged in and in standby mode when they’re not in use.
Research from MoneySuperMarket found that Britons are spending an extra £86 a year in electricity by leaving our tech on standby. The Energy Savings Trust confirmed this research, saying households are wasting between £45 and £80 a year, or £1.7 billion collectively, by leaving our appliances in standby all the time.
However, apparently nearly half of us don’t think that being vigilant about turning off appliances is worth the savings. A quarter said turning off or unplugging appliances and gadgets would take too much time.
Luckily, in the UK sockets come with switches, enabling you to easily cut off power to an appliance or device without physically removing the cable from the socket. Try it for a month and see if your energy bills fall (with accurate meter readings). You might find, with monthly savings of up to £7, it very much is worth getting behind the entertainment console to switch off your TV and set-top box. And maybe if it takes more effort to flick on the TV you’ll find yourself watching less of it, which can only be good for your energy bills, physical health, and that stack of books you swore you’d read this year.
So which items are the biggest drain on our electricity grid, and checking accounts, if left in standby and how much exactly are they costing you? Which should you prioritise when you run around the house flicking switches? MoneySuperMarket did the maths:
- Digital TV box – £25.91 a year: Even if we switch our TVs off, many of us will leave our set top box quietly idling—maybe to catch that late night rerun we’ve scheduled to record but more likely just because we’re forgetful. But digital TV boxes are the biggest drain on our energy budgets if left continuously humming.
- Multi-room speakers (in idle mode) – £19.66 a year:
- Modem (left on) – £5.64 a year
- Microwave (left on) – £3.24 a year: Most of us are used to our microwave continuously sitting in standby, displaying the time and just waiting for the ready meal. But turning it off at the wall can save you the cost of a really fancy microwave meal.
- Digital clock (left on) – £1.83 a year
- TV (on standby) – £1.23 a year: The most energy efficient TVs on the market use very little power in standby mode, however. Which? found that even the largest, most high-resolution TVs—55 inch, 4K models—use just 0.28 watts an hour in standby. Still, that can add up if they’re in standby 24/7/365.
- Coffee maker (left on) – £1.20 a year: Because you really shouldn’t be drinking coffee after 4pm…
- Phone charger (plugged in, not charging) – £0.27 a year: Many of us keep our mobile phone chargers permanently plugged in somewhere, maybe by our bed. All the better not to misplace them, but leaving them in the wall but not connected to your device, or plugged into your device after it’s fully charged, is an unnecessary suck on your electricity bill. Ditto laptop chargers.
You might also want to consider switching off your router, if not overnight at least when you head away for holiday (particularly if you suspect your cats are using the internet in your absence). However, apparently more than half (55%) of us have never turned off our internet routers, and surely we’re not all constantly surfing the web. We all need some time in the real world. However, check with your broadband provider before you start regularly powering down your router, as some routers need to be permanently switched on to receive technological upgrades from your ISP’s server. BT, for instance, recommends you keep your router on overnight so it’s ready for firmware updates, but Virgin says its customers can shut off their Hubs and not be negatively affected.
Some devices have an energy saving standby mode, which, if activated, can save you kilowatts without a full shutdown. XBox One’s internet-connected ‘Instant on’ standby mode uses 1.1 watts an hour, based on tests conducted by consumer magazine Which?. But if you opt for the energy saving standby mode, that use drops to just 0.3 watts. However, the console won’t get automatic software updates in energy saving mode, so there’s a tradeoff.