How to avoid paying extra for standby power

Standby energy might sound scary, but with some simple switches, you could save more energy at home.

6 min read
Did you know that if appliances are plugged in, they can still use energy? Whether it's your sleeping laptop or the clock on your microwave, making a few smart adjustments around the home could help you save.

Cutting-edge digital devices – from virtual home assistants and speakers to smart appliances and other Internet of Things (IoT) technology – have helped make life easier and more enjoyable for many Australians. But there could be a catch.

These devices need to stay on at all times in order to work. That means, even when you’re not actively using them and you think they’re ‘off’, they’re actually still using power. And it’s not just Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled devices and appliances that use this standby power. All types of appliances including older appliances around your home could be consuming extra energy.

What is standby power?

Standby (or vampire) power is the energy that’s used by appliances and devices in the background even when they’re not in active use or turned on. It can be responsible for as much as 10% of your electricity bill.

Standby power can quickly add up. But this extra usage can be easily reduced by understanding which appliances are using the most standby power and putting a plan in place to avoid unnecessary costs.

Common appliances and devices that use the most standby power:

  • DVD/DVR or Blu ray players
  • Cable/satellite TV boxes
  • Games Consoles
  • Garage door openers
  • Desktop computers or laptops
  • Printers
  • Appliances with a clock – e.g., microwave or DVD player
  • Modems and routers or mesh networks
  • Smart speakers
  • Older TVs

According to Choice, leaving your appliances on standby could cost you hundreds of dollars per year depending on the number and type of appliances in your home.

The exact amount of standby energy used varies, depending on make and model. A good rule of thumb is that newer appliances will often use less energy while on standby than older ones. As energy ratings systems incorporate the use of standby power into their assessments, some companies have prioritised lower standby power use to earn higher ratings.

4 tips to reduce standby energy

1. Turn it off at the source.

Did your parents always tell you to turn things off at the power point even when you weren’t using them? Well, they were onto something. Of course, some things like medical equipment and security systems need to stay on, but switching off lamps, small kitchen appliances, chargers and even video game consoles at the power point whenever possible could make a difference to your bill over the course of a year. And if you’re heading out of town for a bit, unplugging your microwave or router from the wall can really be worth it.

2. Get smarter about plugging in. 

Add smart plugs that stop your larger standby appliances and devices from using energy behind the scenes throughout your home. You can turn existing appliances into smart ones with a simple smartphone app, schedule them to turn completely off overnight and turn back on in the morning. That means less guessing about where all your standby power use is coming from.

For example, you can connect one smart plug to the power board to which your computer and printer are plugged in and set it to turn off at 10pm every night and to turn back on at 7am the next day. Then you can attach another smart plug to a power board with your gaming console and smart speaker and have it turn off and on at different times.

3. Understanding energy star ratings.

You might already take Smart Energy ratings into account when you shop for new appliances. But now that you know more about standby energy, see if the level of standby power consumption is included in the product specifications of your next purchase. In some cases, buying a new, more efficient product could help you save on your electricity bill, rather than the running costs of something older.

4. Get in tune with your energy use.

One of the best things you can do to better understand your energy use is to learn how to read your energy bills.

If you have a smart meter and are signed up for ebilling with AGL, our Energy Insights report* estimates how much electricity your home uses on heating, cooling, lighting, laundry, standby and more. You can have greater visibility of your electricity use and can take control of running costs to find out where you could start saving.

Want even more great tips for making your home energy efficient? Check out our guide.

Standby energy might sound scary, and it can be if you’re not aware of where it’s lurking around your home. With some simple switches, you can potentially shave money off your electricity bill while also lowering your overall carbon footprint.

*Currently the Energy Insights report isn’t available for solar customers.


A smarter solution

Take control of your standby power with smart devices.

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