with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Standby Mode Wasting Energy

The Economist reports “Pulling the Plug on Standby” will help save billions of dollars in electrical costs.

Strange though it seems, a typical microwave oven consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating food. For while heating food requires more than 100 times as much power as running the clock, most microwave ovens stand idle—in “standby” mode—more than 99% of the time. And they are not alone: many other devices, such as televisions, DVD players, stereos and computers also spend much of their lives in standby mode, collectively consuming a huge amount of energy. Moves are being made around the world to reduce this unnecessary power consumption, called “standby power”…

…In 1998 [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, California] released an initial study which estimated that standby power accounted for approximately 5% of total residential electricity consumption in America, “adding up to more than $3 billion in annual energy costs”. According to America’s Department of Energy, national residential electricity consumption in 2004 was 1.29 billion megawatt hours (MWh)—5% of which is 64m MWh. The wasted energy, in other words, is equivalent to the output of 18 typical power stations.

This figure, however, was based on estimates. So Dr Meier and his team went on to measure standby-power consumption directly, in an empirical study. Their results, published in 2000, revealed that standby power accounted for as much as 10% of household power-consumption in some cases. That same year, a similar study in France found that standby power accounted for 7% of total residential consumption. Further studies have since come to similar conclusions in other developed countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and Japan. Some estimates put the proportion of consumption due to standby power as high as 13%.

So what do they suggest to help you cut back on the wasted electricity?

The article states that the first thing that really needs to happen is to promote awareness, and then get manufacturers to start increasing efficiency in household products by reducing their “standby mode” electricity drain. Then, turn things off.

Turning your microwave off when there is no “off switch” gets complicated so there is a new growing industry in creating accessories that attach to your microwaves and “always on” products to allow you to turn them off manually or with timers.

So if you aren’t really using it, why not turn it off? You’re paying for all that wasted electricity, so why not see how much you can save by turning things off when you aren’t using them.

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