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What is standby power?


Each year, the average American household spends almost $1,400 on their electricity bills. Of this bill, $110 is for “standby power” (Consumer Reports 2007). Standby power refers to the electricity used by electrical products when they are switched off or not performing their primary purpose. This power can account for 5 percent - 10 percent of total annual electricity consumption (International Energy Agency 2007). Standby power is also responsible for roughly 1 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions (IEA).


The Department of Energy gives these tips on how to identify products with standby power:

  • An external power supply (i.e. cell phone chargers, inkjet printers)
  • A remote control (i.e. TVs, VCRs, ceiling fans, audio equipment)
  • A continuous digital display (i.e. clothes washers, microwaves, VCRs)
  • A rechargeable battery (i.e. cordless telephones, battery charger)


These products continue to use standby power even after the battery is fully charged.


How do I combat the drain of standby power?


Decide what appliances that use standby power can be unplugged. This does not make sense for some appliances; for instance, the microwave whose clock you use to get to work on time. Computers, monitors, and printers are good appliances for this task. Once you've decided which devices to unplug, you can save time by plugging them into a power strip or surge protector that can be turned off with a single switch.



Barbara Buffaloe, Extension Associate, Architectural Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
November 2008



Works Cited:
Consumer Reports. September 2007. “Cut down on ‘standby power’ usage”.
Department of Energy. June 2004. “How to Buy Products with Low Standby Power”.
International Energy Agency. April 2007. “Standby Power Use and the IEA “1-watt Plan”.







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Last update: Monday, May 18, 2009




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