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Savings Guide

The instant-on world: standby power and its uses

Standby power and its usesThe universe might seem infinite, but we’re all beginning to feel the consequences of butting up against the physical limits of our environment and planet. Whether its high gas prices, high heating bills in the winter months, or simply a growing awareness of the connection between the way we live our lives and the way people around the world are forced to live theirs, energy and how to use it more efficiently is on everyone’s mind these days. We’re all learning new terms and concepts that no one bothered with just a few years ago, from ‘hybrid’ cars to solar panels. One concept that is quickly grabbing everyone’s attention is standby power and its connection to home energy saving.

Standby power

In a nutshell, standby power refers to the electrical power being pulled from the wall by an appliance or device even when that appliance or device is technically switched off. As these products become more and more sophisticated, more and more of them continue to sip electricity from the socket even when you’ve turned them off, and this has become a loud and obvious way for anyone to reduce their personal power consumption and increase the energy efficiency of their home. By turning appliances and devices 100% off with energy saving products like an EcoSwitch and preventing them from drawing power when not in use, the savings can be really impressive.

In fact, the use of something like an EcoSwitch has become one the fastest-growing ways ordinary people are adjusting their carbon footprints downward. The EcoSwitch allows you to switch off a number of appliances with one simple press of a button, eliminating standby or “vampire” power. The EcoSwitch is safer than constantly pulling and plugging wires from the socket (which can fray wire insulation and work sockets loose over time, increasing the risk of injury from electrocution) and has a real economic benefit, as many appliances such as flat-screen televisions draw a lot of power in standby.

Benefits of standby

As with just about everything in this world, though, extremes are usually a bad idea. It’s no different when it comes to standby power. There are many legitimate and even necessary uses of standby power, and if you apply a zero-tolerance policy towards it you may save yourself some money and reduce your energy footprint, but you’ll also get less out of your appliances and can even interfere with their best operation.

First of all, consider the obvious: You don’t want to turn off your refrigerator every time you close the door. There are simply some devices or appliances that must pull power from the wall at all times, and that are just not ideal candidates for an EcoSwitch or other standby power eliminator.

Second, we live in an increasingly instant-on world, and many devices have been designed to be connected via wireless Internet signals at all times. You have to be the judge of whether you actually need this functionality in your appliance. Many modern televisions connect to the Internet to retrieve programming and settings, and take some time when turned on ‘cold’ to configure themselves, often requiring user interaction. If turning your TV off at the wall means you will have to spend ten minutes entering settings information before you can use it, it may not make sense to do so. Similarly, many set top boxes are connected at all times to preserve DVR programming and download updates to their software.

Finally, some devices and appliances use power constantly in order to preserve their state and run more efficiently – turning them off at the wall would actually make them less efficient. Examples of this would be heating and air-conditioning systems that work much more efficiently if allowed to monitor and regulate climate instead of being turned on in a very hot or cold room and forced to labour intensely to bring the climate to preferred levels.

In the end, the approach must be balanced. Simply leaving everything plugged in all the time or simply turning everything off is an unbalanced and inefficient approach. Using devices as they were designed to be used, but identifying unnecessary power use is the key to having both a clear conscience and a comfortable home.