Switching appliances off standby

Leaving appliances on standby can use as much as 75% of the energy they use when they're fully switched on. You can save over £80 per year on your energy bills by simply fully switching off your home appliances.

What does standby mode mean?

When your electric devices are on standby, it means they go into a type of sleep. They’re not actually off – they’re powered down into an energy-saving mode while not in use. This lets you turn things back on quickly when you need to. But it also means the devices are still using energy when you might not want them to.

How much is it really costing you?

The average home in the UK has two TV’s, each TV can use up to £16 of electricity a year when left on standby…that is a saving of up to £32 per year by just switching off your TV at the set or socket.

A recent study by electricity and gas supplier Utilita has found that the average household in the UK has at least 10 appliances left on standby and estimated 30% of UK homes have items left on standby that haven't been used in a year.

Here are some costs of the most common culprits:

  • TV - £16 a year
  • Games console £16 a year each
  • A laptop - £4.87 a year (even if you leave it sitting untouched but plugged in)
  • Speakers use almost as much power when in standby as when in use - £3.45 a year for each speaker.
  • Home printer - £6.50 a year

What is vampire power?

Did you know that your computer is using power even when it’s in standby mode? And your mobile phone charger is using electricity when you leave it plugged in after your phone has finished charging? That’s vampire power. Of course, there are some appliances that you need to leave switched on all the time. Things like your fridge-freezer and landline phone need constant power to function

Which devices use the most energy in standby mode?

Games consoles

They’re known to be one of the worst energy vampires, as their ‘standby’ mode uses power to detect software updates and input from voice commands or remote controls.

The best way to stop this is by turning the plug off at the wall, but if that’s a problem then most consoles have an ‘energy saving mode’. This will prevent the device from doing things like checking for updates or messages while it’s on standby. Check your console’s instruction manual to find out how to activate this (usually by adjusting your settings).


Old TVs were notorious for using lots of electricity. But newer TVs, despite being bigger, tend to be less power-hungry than their older counterparts. In fact, according to the Centre for Sustainable Energy, today they’re one of the most efficient household devices.

Still, TVs do use a little vampire energy when they’re on standby, so it’s always best to switch them off at the wall when they’re not in use. Like consoles, they might also have an ‘energy-saving mode’. Check your TV manual to find out more about this.

Does turning a TV off at the wall damage it?

No, but lots of newer smart TV’s get software updates while they’re on standby overnight. If yours misses these updates, it could start to work more slowly, making it seem like it’s faulty.

Speakers and radios

Even when they’re not making a sound, speakers could be using energy. This is Money estimates that the average UK household spends about £5.93 powering speakers, and £2.83 powering smart home devices (including smart speakers) per year. And it also costs £1.44 to power a digital radio each year, when it’s not in use3.

Mobile phone and tablet chargers

If you leave a phone charger plugged in, it continues to use electricity - but if you only leave the charger plugged into the wall without your phone (or other device) attached, the amount of electricity it uses will be tiny.

However, if you keep your phone plugged into the charger after its battery is full, you could be using more energy than you need to. Because the charger will keep using the same amount of electricity as long as your phone is plugged into it – whether the battery is full or not.

Kitchen appliances

Some of the biggest energy wasters in your kitchen include the microwave (which uses about 3 watts when not in use) and the coffee maker (0.5 watts)4. Anything with an LED light or screen that stays on permanently will use up more power.

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

Struggling to remember to switch off? Here are a few ways to make it easier:

  • Use plug extension strips: plugging several devices into one extension strip can make it easier to remember to switch things off – this way, you only have to hit one switch
  • Standby savers: sometimes called energy-saving plugs, these devices are designed to help you remember to switch things off at the wall.They can cost from £5 up to £40. Whether or not they will save you money is disputed. Standby savers themselves use a small amount of electricity (about 86p worth per year).

How vampire power hurts the environment

Back in 2007, the International Energy Agency estimated that standby mode was responsible for about 1% of global carbon emissions7. But since this statistic was released, there have been lots of changes.

The electricity grid we have today is much less carbon intensive than it was all those years ago. Plus, the One Watt Initiative, launched in 1999, has successfully campaigned to reduce standby power to less than 0.5 watts in many appliances.

Still, even though our individual appliances are less electricity-hungry, we have more of them than ever. And, because of their “smart” capabilities, we’re leaving them switched on for longer.