A study by the Energy Saving Trust in the UK of energy wasted from stand-by use provides important lessons for all countries. Even though there have been campaigns and energy performance standards to reduce stand-by consumption, the total impact is still a major concern.
Energy Saving Trust: households waste £1.3bn for leaving gadget switched on
Across the UK, households could be losing £1.3 billion by not fully switching off computers, televisions and other electronic devices, the research from the Energy Saving Trust and two government departments revealed.
The study, which closely monitored the electricity use of 250 homes, found that the households were spending between £50 and £86 on gadgets in a “non-active” or standby state, equivalent to 9pc to 16pc of the average electricity bill.
The research also found that people were watching more television than previously thought, with the TV on for more than six hours a day rather than the previous estimate of five hours on average.
This could mean that the UK as a whole is watching 10 billion hours more TV a year than estimated, adding £205 million to electricity bills across the country.
The research, which only followed people who owned the home they lived in, also found single-person households were using as much, or sometimes more, electricity to run appliances for cooking and laundry as average families.
This could have “troubling” implications for efforts to cut electricity use, if the trend towards increasing numbers of lone households continues, the report’s authors warn. Almost a third (29pc) of homes were one-person households in 2010.
The study also revealed UK households run an average of five and a half washes a week, and homes with a tumble dryer use it for four-fifths of laundry cycles rather than using outdoor washing lines or indoor drying racks.
Running a washing machine and tumble dryer costs on average £80 a year, not including the cost of detergents and fabric softeners.
And even more energy is used for keeping kitchenware clean, with households that have dishwashers using on average nearly double the amount of electricity on them than on washing machines, the report revealed.
Elsewhere in the home, families were spending an average of £35 on powering their computer use, with laptops much cheaper to run than desktop computers.
And households were spending around £68 on electricity for consumer electronics such as TVs, DVD players, hi-fis and radios, but those with the latest “home cinema” style set-ups could be paying out more than £300 a year to power them.
Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “It’s crucial that households across the nation can make informed decisions by having the right advice to help them reduce their energy usage and fuel bills.
“This research shows that there’s still more work to be done with consumer advice, product innovation and take-up of energy efficiency labelling.”
He said the EST was working through its Energy Saving Trust Recommended labelling scheme to help consumers spot the most energy efficient appliances.
The Government said it was working with the EU to make sure green energy labels are displayed on all new electrical appliances to provide clear and easily recognisable advice for consumers.
The Powering the Nation report revealed that the households studied were using around 10pc more than average UK energy use, even though they were homes where residents said they were careful about their energy habits.
Energy used to heat and power homes accounts for over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions.
Environment minister Lord Taylor said: “As this survey shows we are using a lot more energy than previously thought.
“Manufacturers need to develop more energy efficient electrical products and help consumers save money and the environment.
“We can all do simple things like switching off our televisions, computers and other home electronics and save up to £85 on electricity bills each year.”
Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: “Using energy more wisely in our homes will not only cut carbon but will also help save money on bills.
“But first we need to really understand how we use this energy in order to become more energy wise.
“This report provides vital insights into what is happening on the ground, highlighting the need for more energy efficient household electrical appliances and indicating which appliances contribute most to electricity demand at peak times.”