Better understanding how we use electricity in our homes

You know yourself that you have lots of gadgets and the number has increased in recent years. As the author, Oliver Pickup, writes, the average UK home possesses between 40 and 50 electrical appliances. He writes a good article on The Telegraph website about their impact. Now with Brexit, it will be interesting to know if the UK stays with the EU minimum energy performance standards that obviously play an important role in minimising our energy usage.

 

Silent and costly: how standby gadgets rack up energy bills

Beware of the gadgets silently running up your gas and electricity bills, probably at this very second. These quietly greedy gadgets are nibbling away at your electricity, quietly racking up what you pay.

Energy efficiency is a hot topic, and while it is common knowledge that heating, lighting and air conditioning are significant contributors to household utility bills, many of us are not switched on to the fact that smaller appliances and gadgets can be costly, both in terms of our pockets and what they do to the planet.

The average UK home possesses between 40 and 50 electrical appliances, according to the Energy Saving Trust. That figure will only climb thanks to constant technology innovations. But which of those devices, if switched off, will save you a packet on your bills, improve your energy efficiency and ensure you are doing your bit for the planet?

First, as a general rule, if an electrical gadget is not in use, don’t simply trigger standby mode; get into the habit of switching it off completely, at the plug.

Scarily, so-called “idle load electricity” (such as laptops in sleep mode or laser printers on standby) accounts for almost a quarter of power consumption (23 per cent) in the average home, according to the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

Further, Alex Laskey, president and founder of Opower (acquired by multinational computer technology corporation Oracle this year), believes that about $40 billion (£32 billion) per annum is wasted on electricity in American homes alone3.

“That energy use does not contribute to our well-being, but it does contribute to climate change,” he said in a recent TED talk on how changing behaviour can lower energy bills. “The most overlooked resource to get us to a sustainable energy future is you and me.”

Good habits cannot be formed without knowledge, though. In Britain, the worst offenders are Wi-Fi routers, which use up stacks of unnecessary kilowatts. It is estimated that left-on routers cost each household almost £22 a year4.

That may seem a piddling amount on its own, but when you consider that there are likely to be 50 devices – most of which can be turned off at the wall – whirring away in your home, it soon adds up. So switch off the router overnight, and when you don’t require access to the internet (though note that television catch-up services, and the like, will be disabled).

Other eyebrow-raising devices include laser printers, amplifiers, iPad chargers, televisions and desktop PCs.

Elsewhere, TV set-top boxes also suck up energy when left on standby. These days, many UK homes contain many similar devices.

Again, the expert advice is to try to get into the habit of switching them off, at the plug, when not in use. Additionally, look out for Energy Star-certified set-top boxes, which on average are 35 per cent more efficient when compared with conventional models5.

It is important to think about the energy consumption of all your gadgets – some might be less obvious that others. Devices such as automated lawn sprinkler systems, games consoles, stereo systems and even alarm clocks, when in standby mode or on but unused in the background, all contribute to your energy usage and therefore bills.

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