Save $$$ and help the environment – switch off your electronics

Our special section Project: Home, a magazine-style piece about gardening and home improvement, is available in our newspapers now – here is a sampling of what the publication has to offer.

Standby Electrical Power refers to the electrical power being consumed when the devices are off and not performing their primary purpose.

We are truly evolving from an electro-mechanical world where household electrical devices were either off or on, to an electronic one which is never off.

In the early 1990s a scientist and his staff at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California took note that a growing number of household appliances used by consumers are never really switched off as many consumers believe, but in a standby mode and on, ready to spring into action when needed.

With a concern towards present and future energy conservation, he and his staff set out to quantify the scale of this ever-growing concern. Surprisingly, the study concluded that standby power accounted for approximately 5 percent of total residential electrical consumption in our country. Subsequent studies by the Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab revealed standby power residential consumption increasing to 10 percent and continuing an upward spiral. Examples include the following appliances and devices in standby and in the off position.

Computer Printer: 11.5 watts

Video Recorders: 50 watts

Two Televisions: 20 watt

Three Cordless Phones: sixwatts

Micro-wave Oven: three watts

Cable Box: 23 watts

A typical computer with an uninterruptible power supply, scanner, external hard drive, compact disc writer, and printer typically can draw 24 watts combined while in standby.

All those devices with bright red dots and flashing digital clocks that sometimes “bleep at you in the night” are clear evidence you are consuming standby power.

These figures do vary a great deal, but when you consider the billions of devices such as these throughout our country and the world that are in standby 95 to 100 percent of the time, 365 days per year, the wasted energy consumption becomes quite staggering. In fact, these same studies referenced above revealed that the 100 million American homes each having an average of 19 standby devices are on average consuming 70 watts of standby power continuously per home. As a result, this waste in energy consumption represents far reaching environmental and economic concerns.

The solution to this problem is both a behavioral and technical one. Consumers can participate by unplugging battery and cell phone chargers and devices that are not used frequently. Using power strips with multiple outlets that service entertainment centers, putting computers in the “hibernate” mode, and turning off printers alone will shed a good amount of standby power. From a technical point of view the technology to minimize standby power consumption is readily available; however, motivation from the manufacturers’ side is not. Manufacturers are beginning to take note as laws and regulations are being implemented. A “one watt” maximum standby power usage policy is being incorporated into the Energy Star program. California has created legislation that states it is now illegal to sell a television or DVD that consumes more than three watts in the standby mode. Standby devices such as battery and cell phone chargers have a 0.75 watt standby power consumption limit. These new standards are now creating substantial incentive for manufacturers to actively participate in designing devices that consume power in a more productive way.

To the benefit to us all, play an active part in limiting standby power consumption in your home or business.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has a data base available for the purpose of reviewing products and standby power specifications that adhere to current standby power consumption standards. Refer to:

Note: As odd as it may seem, over the lifecycle of a microwave oven it consumes more in standby electricity when off than it does cooking food.