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Standby Power - Introduction

Standby Power and the Levels of Consumption

What is Standby Power?

Even when turned "off," most consumer electronics continue to consume energy. Referred to as Standby Power, this uninterrupted supply of electricity powers such features as clocks, timers, and remote controls that are always on or ready. Some types of equipment (such as cable set-top boxes) are always ready to receive information. Products with external power supplies (such as laptop computers and cell phone chargers) also draw Standby Power as long as the power supply or battery charger is plugged into an outlet, even if the device itself is turned off, removed from the charger, or fully charged.

Although the Standby Power consumption of most devices is relatively small, the number of devices that require such power is large - and growing. These devices spend the majority of time in Standby mode, creating a noticeable amount of electricity consumption over time. In the average Canadian home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are in Standby mode. That is costing you money, and it is placing an unnecessary strain on our electricity infrastructure.

A typical Canadian household can have upwards of 20 pieces of equipment that use Standby Power at the same time. Although each device uses a relatively small amount of electricity, their combined consumption represents, on average, 10 percent of household electricity consumption- the equivalent of operating another refrigerator.

Levels of power consumption

  • Use - on: The power used by the product when performing its primary function.
  • Active Standby: The product or appliance is turned on, but not performing its primary function. Active Standby mode applies to certain products, such as compact disk (CD) players and video game consoles, but not others such as televisions and computer monitors. An example of a product in active Standby mode would be a CD player turned on but not playing a CD.
  • Passive Standby: The product or appliance is in its lowest power-consuming mode, and could be activated by a remote control or is performing some user-oriented function. An example of a product in passive Standby mode would be a Digital Video Disk (DVD) player which is turned off, but continues to operate both a clock display and remote control (infrared) sensor.
  • Sleep mode: Certain products offer a feature whereby the product can turn off selected components after a period of non-use. These modes can improve energy-efficiency, particularly for products that users frequently leave on when they are not using them. Computers, for example, can have multiple sleep modes, often referred to as 'standby' and 'hibernate.' The product can automatically initiate these modes after a prescribed period of inactivity.
  • Off: The product must have a power switch located on the product. Off mode is when a product or appliance is connected to a power source but does not produce any sound or picture, transmit or receive information or is waiting to be switched "on" by the consumer. If the product has a remote control, it cannot be woken by a remote control from off mode - it can only be activated via the power switch on the product. No display should be active in off mode. While the product may be doing some internal functions in off mode (e.g. memory functions, EMC filters) these are not obvious to the user. A device that does not have a power switch located on itself (such as a TV) can be attached to a power bar to attain the off mode.
  • Delay start: Delay start is becoming a common feature on many major appliances. Essentially the appliance can be programmed to begin functioning at a later time, in some cases up to 24 hours later. Appliances left in this mode are in neither active nor passive Standby.
  • Disconnected EPS mode: For consumer products that have a separate external power supply (EPS), this mode occurs when the external power supply is connected to the main electricity supply but the output is not connected to the consumer product.

Standby Power in Canada

  Watts kWh/Year Canadian $
Household average Standby Power consumption, assuming all appliances were similar to the products measured in 2007 59 450 $41.43
Household average power consumption assuming all appliances consume 1W 43 330 $30.32
Savings 16 120 $11.11

The money you save will vary depending on the price of electricity, which can vary significantly across the country. This is only a conservative, estimated calculation, as there were many products not measured in the study that these figures come from (e.g. garage door openers, ceiling fans, battery chargers). Also, the power savings are based on reducing the Standby Power of products manufactured in 2007 to one watt. However, most households will have much older equipment which likely exhibit higher Standby Power levels than the equipment measured in stores. Therefore, the overall Standby Power consumption of all products in a typical household is most likely greater.

At a national level, Canada consumes between 5.09 and 5.80 terawatt-hours/yr (TWh) of standby energy per year. It appears that Standby Power consumption can be reduced by approximately 75% using commercially available technology, resulting in a savings of roughly $341millions (M) to $392M per year in electricity bills and 1.73 to 1.99 Megatons (Mt) of Co2 emissions (assuming that all products in Canadian homes were produced in 2007).

Did you know?

  • Standby Power globally consumes up to 480 TWh each year, nearly 3 times the total electricity used in Mexico!
  • A computer that runs 24 hours a day uses between $75 and $120 worth of electricity each year.
  • Contrarily to popular belief, computer screensavers increase power consumption.
  • Leaving a charging device (cellphone, batteries) in the power socket after the device has finished charging will cause it to continue to draw electricity. Even after the device is removed from the charging device, it will still draw electricity until it is unplugged.