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What is standby power?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), about 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use is accounted for by standby power. Standby power is the electric power used when a device is plugged in and not being used, but is ready to be used at any time. Eliminating standby power energy usage could save the average U.S. household up to $100 a year. According to the Standby Power Berkeley Lab, standby power accounts for 1% of global carbon emissions. 


What are common things that use standby power?

This can be devices like air conditioners, TVs, toasters, lamps or smaller things like phone chargers. The Standby Power Berkeley Lab reports that most new electrical products use power 24 hours a day and that most products use less than 0.5 watts of standby power, but this adds up and also varies by product. Check out their page on other items that you can unplug now to reduce energy consumption. 


How do I reduce standby power energy usage?

Some appliances and devices need to remain plugged in like refrigerators and clocks, but those that don’t should be unplugged when not in use. However, this may be inconvenient and difficult to unplug and replug in chargers and cords, especially those that use outlets in hard-to-reach places like behind a bed or a dresser. Using a surge protector power strip with an on/off switch is an easy solution so you can turn off multiple appliances and devices at once.


Another solution is to install outlets with an on/off switch which may be convenient for areas of the house where you don’t want extra cords (like from a surge protector) to be showing. This might be a good option when building a new house or doing renovations that require electrical work. 


An option that combines those two is a plug-in outlet with an on/off switch. These plug into your normal outlet and allow devices to be plugged into it, except it has an on/off switch. It’s the same idea as the surge protector but it doesn’t have the extra cord, and it’s similar to the outlet without having to do any electrical work. 


For devices that are unable to be unplugged when not in use (like refrigerators), consider using ENERGY STAR products or energy-efficient products that will have a lower standby power energy consumption than those that aren’t. 


For more information about standby power, check out the Standby Power Berkley Lab Frequently Asked Questions.

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