Idle devices devour billions of electricity each year

Computers, fridges, game consoles, coffee makers, even garage door openers. Even when the owners are not using these common household devices or think they are turned off, they devour up to USD 19 billion worth of electricity each year.

That staggering amount of electricity is equal to the output of 50 large power plants, according to a recent study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report, Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use, found that most of these devices – which are either plugged in or hard-wired into American homes – consume electricity around-the-clock. The so-called vampire energy drain costs on average USD 165 per U.S. household per year.

One reason the figure is so high is that many of these devices are now digital, explains Pierre Delforge, the report’s author. “Appliances like washers, dryers, and fridges now have displays, electronic controls, and increasingly even Internet connectivity, for example.”

Idle consumption includes devices in off or ‘standby’ mode but still drawing power, in ‘sleep mode’ ready to power up quickly, and left fully on but inactive. The 10 common devices with the cost of their worst-case ‘always-on’ are water recirculation pumps, desktop computers, televisions, cable set-top boxes, audio receivers/stereos, printers, furnaces, coffee makers, dryers and GFCI outlets.

Delforge urges consumers to take steps to reduce their idle load by using timers, smart power strips and changing settings on their devices. He also calls on manufacturers to design products to minimise energy waste and for government to introduce energy efficiency utility programmes and standards.

“Reducing always-on consumption is a low-hanging fruit opportunity to cut climate-warming pollution,” he adds.


Photo credit: photosteve101, flickr/Creative Commons

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