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The cost of leaving appliances on standby

How much are you paying each year to leave your appliances in standby mode?

Last updated: 22 January 2020

Need to know

  • Leaving your appliances on standby could cost you hundreds of dollars a year
  • Digital video recorders (DVRs), wireless routers and printers can be some of biggest energy hogs
  • Other appliances, such as TVs, dishwashers and air conditioners, won't cost you much at all

Look around your house and you'll find many appliances – TVs, microwaves, phone chargers, washing machines and games consoles – that all cost you money even when you think you've turned them off. The arrival of the smart home will only add to your power bill: by 2023 the average home is expected to have almost 20 connected devices.

Standby energy costs eat into your bank account in small bites, but the bigger cost doesn't just show up in your electricity bill. The total cost of standby energy across the country can amount to tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases being emitted.

We've found that if you have a lot of appliances that are inefficient, you could be paying hundreds of dollars or more per year for unnecessary power and contributing more than 1000 kilograms of greenhouse gases to the environment.

How much energy does an appliance use in standby mode?

When we compared appliances in 2019, the difference between the most efficient and least efficient was marginal in most areas. When it came to large air conditioners, for example, the lowest annual standby cost was $0.01, while the highest was $1.80. An efficient Blu-ray player cost nothing a year in standby costs, while the least efficient cost $0.05. 

But with some products we saw a greater difference, for example the lowest standby energy cost for an Ikea microwave was $0.67 compared to a Panasonic model at $6.28. The starkest divide was with multi-function printers, where the lowest standby cost was $0.00 compared to an absolute energy hog at $32.06.

It's often older appliances that use the most

Individually, most appliances will only draw a small amount of energy on standby, but Australia-wide it adds up to an immense amount of power. It's often older appliances that use the most; energy-saving initiatives have generally made new appliances much more efficient in all respects, particularly if they have to adhere to an Energy Star rating. And while standby costs may be a small part of your total power bill, isn't it better to have the money in your pocket, rather than the electricity company's?

Top tips for reducing appliance standby energy costs

  1. Turn off your appliances at the wall where possible.
  2. When shopping for your next appliance, look for the one with the lowest standby energy score in our reviews. Alternatively, standby energy consumption is sometimes included in product specs. Look for those with very low amounts, ideally one watt or less.
  3. If you can feel heat coming from your laptop power pack, even when the appliance isn't attached, it's drawing enough energy to cost you money.
  4. If your home entertainment power plugs are impossible to get to because of messy wires or furniture, there are clever devices that can help you turn them on and off easily.
  5. When choosing an appliance that will always be on, such as a fridge, look for one that combines the lowest running cost and best performance.
  6. Don't forget that the appliance's overall energy efficiency is still the most important factor. Low standby power use is irrelevant if the appliance is an energy hog when in use!
  7. You may be able to reduce the cost of your household energy by switching electricity suppliers.
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.