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Savings Guide

Why hi-tech gadgets are your worst energy saving enemy

We all love the entertainment that comes from our home media systems, smart phones, game consoles, integrated music players and computers. But did you know that home office and entertainment appliances now equate to over two thirds of standby power consumption in the average home? And as we buy more and more of these hi-tech appliances the problem only gets worse – despite many gadgets now promising to ‘control standby power’ for us. With electricity prices continuing to rise, it’s imperative we counteract the impact of these energy-saving enemies.

Power consumption facts

  • Standby power is a significant contributor to household energy consumption
  • Most hi-tech devices use standby power whenever they are connected to power; typically waiting for a signal
  • Energy saving gadgets that claim to eliminate standby power rarely deliver on the promise
  • The number of computers that are left on 24/7 in the average household has doubled since 2005*
  • A computer left running 24/7 costs around $145 per year in electricity
  • More than 73% of LCD or plasma TV units are left in passive standby mode (remote used to turn screen off)*
  • Video game consoles left on 24 hours a day in idle mode can add almost $250 a year to electricity bills (charged at 15c per kWh) and draw 10 times more power per year than those switched off at the wall.
  • Cordless phones may use less energy than larger appliances but they draw power 24/7, which soon adds up over a year

Standby power usage

Most appliances and gadgets consume power even when they are not being used and have been left in an idle or standby mode. Video game consoles are one of the worst offenders –  if they haven’t been switched off they will continue to draw almost the same amount of power as when in use. Basically anything with a light or clock will continue to draw power, as will many devices used for re-charging (batteries, phones, cameras, laptop AC adapters etc) regardless of whether the gadget is attached or not. The majority of modern TV’s (plasma and LCD) have been designed to stay in standby mode around the clock, ready to be quickly re-activated with the remove control.

The general rule of thumb is to assume that unless a device is switched off at the wall, it will be consuming power continuously.

Switch off at the wall

The simplest way to eliminate standby power is to make sure that every appliance is turned off at the power point when not in use – including the TV and any connected devices like games consoles and DVD players. As this can be a time-consuming job in our age of hi-tech gadgetry, a good option is to use an EcoSwitch to power down the whole system connected to your powerboard with just one click. You won’t even need to ferret around behind furniture, as the EcoSwitch brings the switch to you – glowing green as a constant reminder that connected appliances are switched on.

Organising your hi-tech gadgets into ‘hubs’ connected to a powerboard in this way will make the job of switching them off much easier – saving you time, energy and money. Purchase an EcoSwitch now!

Other ways to reduce energy consumption from gadgets

As well as turning off at the wall, it’s also possible to save energy in the way hi-tech gadgets are set-up and used.

  • Switch off the ‘quick start’ option on your TV – while this keeps the TV ‘ready’ so it can turn on a few seconds quicker, it uses a significant amount of standby power.
  • Turn on the ‘power-saver’ and ‘presence sensor’ modes on your TV, if it has them.
  • Avoid charging your phone overnight as the battery won’t take 7+ hours to fully charge. Instead, charge your phone while you’re around and can switch off or remove the charger once complete.
  • Always switch off your video games console when you’re not using it, even if just taking a quick break.
  • Enable auto-shutdown on your games console to save power if you forget to switch it off. Downloadable applications are available if your console doesn’t have this functionality built-in.
  • Don’t put animated screensavers on your computer – they use full power and may prevent auto-shutdown options from activating.
  • These days, computers have been designed to be turned on and off frequently, so check your settings and ensure you have default power-down features enabled (for example ‘hibernate’ mode after a short period of inactivity).

Purchasing considerations

Finally, let’s go right back to the start. Not all gadgets are created equal from a standby power consumption perspective, so it makes sense to spend a little time researching before you invest in your next hi-tech purchase.

  • In-line with the aspirational target set by the International Energy Agency (IEA), some manufacturers are starting to produce appliances that use one watt or less in their lowest standby mode. These environmental innovators can be researched online and many independent reviews of energy-efficient ’green’ gadgets are available.
  • The standby power consumption between similar products can vary considerably. Take the time to compare specifications, as some products may be 90% more energy efficient than others – adding up to quite a saving in the longer term.
  • Use Energy Rating Labels where available to help you find the most energy efficient products.  You can also compare appliances on the government’s Equipment Energy Efficiency website.
  • If the appliance you’re looking to buy doesn’t have an Energy Rating Label, try looking for an Energy Star mark instead. This is a voluntary rating, which can help you make informed decisions about energy efficient products including computers, peripherals, speakers and DVDs.
  • If a cordless phone is a necessity (they consume power 24/7) try to find a cordless phone that uses use one watt or less when in standby power mode.

 

* Data from the ‘Third Survey of Residential Standby Power Consumption of Australian Homes – 2010′, a joint initiative of Australian, State and Territory and New Zealand Governments.

 

Related blogs:

Why Switch Off Standby Power?

Saving Power In the Home

Standby Power Saving Product Review