Power-hungry appliances you should be switching off

Does that TV standby light get on your nerves? Blinking away just reminding you that it’s still there costing you money even when you’re not using it. But is turning it off at the plug every time worth the hassle?

According to CHOICE, appliances that are left in standby power mode can account for as much as 10 per cent of your energy bill. 

Of course, turning off every power point in your home would be quite extreme unless you’re going away for some time (and have nothing in the fridge). To help you know which appliances are okay to leave on and which should be turned off, CHOICE has named the ones that use a lot of power, even in standby mode, and has dubbed them ‘vampire appliances’.

Denis Gallagher, CHOICE’s home products expert, explains that most devices that use a remote are ‘vampires’, as even when on stand-by they’re constantly waiting for a signal to switch on.

While it’s going to depend on your household, Mr Gallagher estimates you could “save $100 or so” per year just by turning off a “reasonable” number of appliances at the switch.

How can you tell if something is using standby power?

Usually, most devices will have a light or some other indication they are on standby. For example, you’ll usually see a blinking light on your television or printer.

Another way you can check is if you can feel heat coming from an appliance that you aren’t using, such as your laptop charger when it’s not attached to your laptop.

Dr Emi Gui, the Energy System Lead at Monash University’s Climateworks Centre, says it’s all about creating a behaviour change, and conditioning yourself to make switching off a habit.

“It can lead to quite significant savings, especially considering the rising cost of living pressures.”

She suggests using power boards so that you can easily switch off your most power-hungry appliances in the room with the flick of one switch.

Vampire appliances

Old devices, especially TVs, are among the biggest vampire appliances. TVs made before 2006 and plasma TVs, which were discontinued in the 2010s, are especially notorious power suckers.

Newer TVs, such as LED and OLED models are subject to stricter energy standards and should only cost you “10s of dollars to run, rather than the hundreds of dollars [of older models]”, says Mr Gallagher.

Games consoles such as PlayStations and Xboxes also sit in the power-hungry category, along with DVD players and sound bars that sit on top of the TV.

However, most modern TVs, computers, laptops and gaming consoles are highly configurable and allow you to change which functions they can and can’t perform while in standby mode. Disabling certain functionality (such as automatically checking for a wifi signal or downloading content) can help reduce standby power consumption.

If you think about it, there are probably some easy wins around your house that you can switch off when not in use. Identify those larger appliances that you don’t use every day, such as your clothes dryer, microwave, dishwasher, air conditioner and washing machine and only switch them on at the power point when you’re using them.

Wifi modem and devices connected to the internet

Many of us would class our wireless modem as essential, so they’re one power-sucker that is hard to turn off and on. So try to remember to turn it off overnight and when you’re away from the house for a decent chunk of time. 

Smart home devices that are constantly listening for voice activation, such as Alexa or Google Home, also use power when in standby.

“In 2021, there were an average of 20.5 internet connected devices per household in Australia, with that number forecast to reach 33.8 by 2025,” Dr Gui says.

“Let’s say each device consumes three watts of hourly standby power [costing you $7.88 a year], if you add it all up it can [be something like $150 p.a.] of extra power you’re consuming.”

Computers, laptops and mobile devices

Dr Gui says she always turns off her computer monitor at home, with Mr Gallagher adding that monitors are “constantly drawing power”.

Printers are also an easy one, as are laptop chargers when they’re not actively in use.

“Battery chargers and charging devices are not regulated, so [their stand-by power use] depends on the decision that the company has made, whether they want to make an efficient device or not,” Mr Gallagher says.

However, phone chargers and lamps aren’t a huge power drain – unless they’re also smart devices that connect to wifi. 

The short answer

In conclusion, yes it’s a good idea to switch off appliances at the wall when they’re not in use, especially when you go on holiday. 

While it won’t make you rich, it will save you some money on your power bill. 

Do you turn off appliances when they’re not in use? Which appliances stay on all the time? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: 10 off-peak energy tips to cut your electricity bills

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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