Beware of Standby Power: Don't Let it Suck You Dry!

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Beware of Standby Power: Don't Let it Suck You Dry!

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When you charge your laptop or cell phone, do you sometimes leave it plugged in beyond the time that it's fully charged? Do you have appliances with remotes, LED lights, constant displays, or power adaptors? If so (and most likely you do), then you are an unwitting consumer of standby power, and it's sucking you dry - financially and environmentally.  

Standby Power Basics

Standby power (also referred to as phantom power), is the constant draw on electricity that appliances and electronics pull, even when they're turned off. Your TV for example, draws a charge just waiting for you to pick up the remote and turn it on. And of course, anything that has a clock display or little innocuous LED indicator light has to get its power from somewhere. And you're paying for it.  

If you leave your laptop plugged in (even when fully charged) for example, you are consuming 30 watts. Your digital cable box is eating up 17 watts (turned off, that is), and if you have a digital video recorder, you're guzzling 43 watts.  

These are just a few examples. Check out this chart for a list of just about everything you could have in your home and how much power it guzzles - while turned on, and off.  

The Cost to You

For every watt of standby power you consume, you pay approximately $1 per year. This may not seem like a huge amount of money, but if you tally the number of items you have that are standby power culprits (often more than 40) - multiplied by the wattage each one consumes - you may find that you are unnecessarily spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year.  

Let's also not forget standby power's cost to the environment. Although it's easy to take many home conveniences for granted (like clean running water and a constant supply of electricity and heat), they come at a cost. With environmental awareness, we are becoming increasingly aware of this cost, but some would say not quickly enough.  

In fact, almost 10% of residential electric charges are from standby power alone, which amounts to 1% of global CO2 emissions. Considering standby power is largely unnecessary, these are large numbers.  

What You Can Do

It's not difficult to reduce (if not eliminate) your standby power consumption. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Unplug items when they're not in use. Although this initially takes some additional effort, after a short while you can easily get into the habit. You can use a power bar and simply turn off the power strip for ease of use and ability to "unplug" multiple items at once.
  • When you charge your re-chargeables, keep an eye on them and be sure to unplug them as soon as they're juiced up. This is also beneficial for preserving battery life.
  • Don't forget your wireless modem (if you have one). With its constant connection to the net and blinking LED lights, it's a standby power no-no. And if you turn it off when it's not in use, you're also enhancing your own internet security.
  • If you'd like to automate the process of reducing your standby power consumption, you can look into products like Green Switch, which allow you to turn off power at the source in designated areas of your home with the flick of a switch. 

Lastly, simply be more aware of how you consume power. Go around your house and look at everything that requires power, and ask yourself if it needs to be plugged in, turned on, or on "standby." Because if you consume it, you are paying for it; and wouldn't you rather spend that money on something else?  

Yeah, I thought so.   

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Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under Life Balance. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions while constantly balancing life and her location independent work on the road. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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