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Stop Paying for Energy You Aren't Using

January 6, 2009 - 4:00am


Back in October, we heard a lot about "energy vampires." A very convenient holiday metaphor, to be sure, but you're probably not in the Halloween spirit in January. Nonetheless, you may be in the mood to reduce your energy costs, and standby power is something worth considering all year round.

Standby power is the minimum power used when a product is plugged in. That doesn't necessarily mean the product is "on" or "attached to your cell phone"—yup, just plugged in. Obviously, a lot of products need to stay plugged in even when you're not using them; you wouldn't, for instance, unplug your digital clock when you leave the room and plug it back in and reset it each time you re-enter.

But how many items do you leave plugged in that don't need to be? Almost all of them are using electricity—and you're paying for it. How about those chargers for your cell phone, mobile device, or mp3 player? What about your DVD player, stereo, or video game system? And think about your office--computer, monitor, printer, scanner, and computer speakers... the list goes on. And if your house is anything like mine, you may have two or more of each of these items!

Any one of these may not draw much power on its own (see the chart from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to see just how much standby power many of them draw), but a typical American home has roughly 40 of these products that are constantly plugged in and constantly drawing power. That can add up to 10% of your total electricity use.

You may not be able to cut all of your standby power (nor would you want to), but there are things you can do to reduce your use:

  • Unplug all small chargers when they aren't in use
  • Use a power strip to turn off groups of products all at once (for example, all of your computer equipment)
  • Unplug all products you rarely use.

Check out the Tips to Cut Standby Power from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to learn more about identifying products that use standby power and reducing your stand-by energy use.