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Standby energy

This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make.

Using less energy is a great way to cut down your fuel bills. It also reduces your carbon footprint, and of course that’s good for the environment.

Clearly, the best way to cut down your energy use is to make sure your home and all your electrical appliances are working as efficiently – or as little – as possible. That includes switching them off at the wall whenever you can, rather than leaving them on standby.

What’s so bad about leaving things on standby?

It’s hard to measure energy use accurately when devices are on standby, partly because even the best energy monitors struggle to measure very small amounts.

However, the Energy Saving Trust believes that an average UK home wastes between £50 and £86 each year by leaving appliances on standby. That’s a lot of money wasted just because people don’t want (or forget) to walk across the room and switch electrical items off at the wall.

Some appliances use more on standby than others. For example, games consoles stay in ‘idle’ mode when you’re not using them, which means they’re using practically as much energy as they do when you’re playing a game on them.

Of course there are some appliances that need to be left on all the time. Fridges and freezers are the obvious examples. Possibly your set-top box if you often record programmes on series links.

Which appliances are most likely to be left on standby?

Practically every family in the UK never switches their television off at the wall. Most families also leave their mobile phone chargers permanently plugged in and switched on but doing nothing.

If you’re not watching the television, switch it off – at the wall. Don’t leave it on ‘for company’ while you’re pottering around in other rooms.

If you’re not using your computer, switch it off – and the printer. Depending on your provider, you may need to leave your router on all the time to make sure you benefit from broadband upgrades. Try to find out, and if you don’t need to leave it on all the time – switch it off.

As soon as your mobile’s fully charged, switch off the charger and unplug it.

How can I make it easier for my family to remember to switch things off?

Family members, particularly the younger ones, can be easily distracted and forgetful when it comes to switching off appliances. Here are a few ways to make it easier for them.

Plug related appliances together on a multi-socket adaptor or extension lead – like a computer, router and printer, for example, or television, video recorder and DVD player. Then you and your family only have to remember to flick one switch when you’ve finished using them.

Make it a part of everyone’s bedtime routine to go round the house checking that everything they’ve used is switched off. Small (and even not-so-small) children are often glad of an excuse to put off going to bed for a few minutes longer.

You can also get a range of gadgets to help everyone remember, or make it easier, to switch items off at the wall – like standby savers, which are also known as energy-saving plugs.

What’s a standby saver?

Standby savers – or energy-saving plugs – work with a remote control. You can use the remote control to switch off up to four plugs at once, depending on the model.

The standby saver is plugged in between the appliance and the socket. When you go out, or go to bed, you simply use the remote to make sure all four plugs are switched off. Then you can be sure that those four appliances are not needlessly using electricity on standby.

You could also try adding more appliances by using a multi-socket adaptor or extension lead.

The plugs can cost anything from £5 up to £40, but do make sure you buy one from a reputable trader, as there have been stories of fake plugs being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Will a standby saver save me money?

The Consumers’ Association is unconvinced by standby savers. The fact is that they do use a small amount of power themselves, so unless they’re the only way you’ll remember to switch things off at the wall, they won’t save you much electricity or money.

According to the ‘This is money’ website, using one standby saver for a year would cost about 24p, while leaving an average older television on standby for 16 hours a day could cost around £3.27 a year. However, if you’ve got a brand new plasma TV, the figure would be considerably less. But if you use the tv standby saver to switch off the DVD player, video player and cable box as well, the savings will be greater.

However, if you’re simply thinking in terms of saving money, it could take about 15 years for a £20 standby saver to earn back its cost for you.

Does putting a computer in sleep mode save energy?

It’s better to put your computer in sleep mode than let it stay constantly in screen saver mode when you’re not using it. Screen savers can often take up more energy than actually using the computer.

When you set up the sleep mode, you simply choose a time after which the computer will switch off if you haven’t used it. Make sure the time you choose suits the way you work. Setting too short a time will be very annoying for you – if the computer switches off every time you pop out to make a cup of tea, you’ll start wanting to throw it out of the window. Setting it so it will switch to sleep mode if it isn’t used for ten or fifteen minutes seems to be the optimum time for most people.

Does it matter how long I leave my laptop or mobile charging?

Yes – it can be a big waste of energy. There’s no point in leaving appliances charging when they’re already fully charged. When your laptop’s fully charged, switch it off at the wall and don’t switch it on again until the battery is low.

It’s also wasteful to leave your mobile charging overnight. It will probably have finished charging within two hours, so after that you’re just wasting electricity.

How else can I reduce my electricity bills?

Making a few home improvements is the best place to start, and you may be able to get grants to help you. Visit to find out.

If you insulate your roof and walls, improve your heating system and follow the tips below, you could cut your energy bills and reduce your home’s carbon emissions.

  1. Defrost your freezer at least once every six months
  2. Get or make draught excluders for outside doors, windows and letterboxes
  3. If your boiler is over 15 years old, replace it with a new A-rated condensing boiler
  4. Replace all your old windows with double glazing
  5. Slip an insulating jacket on your hot water tank
  6. Stop heat escaping through your walls with cavity wall insulation
  7. Use energy-saving light bulbs
  8. When using your washing machine, never set it higher than 30˚
  9. When you boil a kettle, only use as much water as you need

For more tips on saving electricity and cutting your bills, check out our guide to the top 14 ways to save electricity at home