"standby" electricity loss from home appliances could save up
to 25 percent on electrical bills, study shows
Robert Sanders, Media Relations
- If you need proof that your appliances are sucking energy
even when they're sitting unused, just turn out the lights
some evening. All those glowing red dots and flashing digital
clocks are a clear sign your household appliances are spending
your money while you sleep.
the biggest energy gobblers are the transformers that continuously
recharge your cell phone, power your computer peripherals
and keep your Game Boy ready for use.
study by students and scientists at the University of California,
Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
shows that the average California home pays between $50 and
$70 every year to keep those little red lights burning, the
clocks ticking and the electronics humming while the appliances
go unused. Eliminating this standby or "leaking" electricity
could save households between six and 26 percent on their
average monthly electricity bill, the study found.
only recently found out how substantial the energy savings
can be," said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy and resources
at UC Berkeley and director of the Renewable and Appropriate
Energy Laboratory. "People could save enough power to offset
the rise in electricity rates."
a master's degree student in the Energy & Resources Group,
conducted the study last spring, the first time anyone in
this country actually went into homes to measure standby power
consumption. He sought out 10 homes in northern California
of varying size, number of occupants and income level.
every appliance in each house, he and co-author Alan K. Meier
of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at LBNL
found that standby energy use averaged 67 watts per household,
more than you would waste by burning a 60-watt bulb day and
night all year long. Standby usage ranged from six percent
to 26 percent of the homes' annual electricity use.
In a 1999
study, Meier and his LBNL colleagues had estimated average
U.S. home standby usage at 50 watts, or about five percent
of nationwide annual electricity usage, based on lab measurements
of leakage in many different appliances.
it's six percent or 16 percent, it's a significant quantity
of electricity being wasted," Ross said. "Typically, the larger
the house, the more appliances and the greater the standby
each of the 10 homes contained 19 appliances using standby
was small and localized, considering there are more than 10
million households in the state, but Ross said the message
is unambiguous: more needs to be done to reduce leaking electricity.
is to unplug appliances when not in use, Kammen said. An alternative
is to group appliances on one surge protector or power strip
so that all can be turned off at once. This works well for
entertainment systems or for a computer and its associated
printers, scanners and other peripheral devices.
printers are one of the big energy wasters, some of them drawing
11.5 watts when idling. Some TVs and video cassette recorders
draw almost as much, while set-top cable boxes can draw twice
that: the most wasteful Ross found drew 23 watts when the
box was off.
of the newest appliances on the market, personal video recorders
meant to replace VCRs, can draw 50 watts when "off," he said.
solution, however, is in the hands of appliance manufacturers.
While it is impossible to turn off many U.S. appliances, in
Europe many come with two "off" buttons: one a remote ready
and another that actually turns the appliance off. Rechargers,
on the other hand, could include a feedback circuit that shuts
off the transformer when a battery is fully charged.
of standby waste in similar appliances shows that it is possible
to reduce standby waste substantially with no loss of function.
Meier and Ross advocate a standard of one watt standby usage
for energy efficient appliances.
predicts you could get a 68 percent reduction in standby usage
if all appliances drew only one watt when not in use," Ross
be too hard for industry to achieve, he said, "Manufacturers
have to pay attention," he said. "People from industry are
getting interested because policy makers are now interested."
Energy Commission, for example, set up a workshop on standby
power use after LBNL published Ross's results in May 2000.
Ross also reported the results at an international conference
in Italy last September.
homeowners need to take a close look of their energy leakage.
Ross found it was possible to reduce his own small household
standby usage to 14 watts, by getting rid of his cell phone,
unplugging his "powerless" power tools and unplugging other
appliances when not in use.
have to buy into the current paradigm of ever increasing power
usage," Ross said. "We should all question how much power
we are using."
of standby power usage was funded by the Energy Foundation
and the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable
energy of the U.S. Department of Energy.
on standby power consumption can be found on the Web at http://eetd.lbl.gov/leaking/.
about UC Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory,
visit its Web site at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~rael/.