Reduce standby power use


Watch for standby mode

Many electronic devices continue to use power even when they are not being used. They use power in "standby mode" to power lights, clocks and "instant-on" features. ENERGY STAR products use up to 50% less energy for the same performance as other models.


Switching off your electronic devices and computers is free. An easy way to turn your electronic devices all the way off, and limit standby power use, is to plug all electronics into a surge protector or power bar that can be switched off when the electronics are not being used.

Cost savings

The average North American home has 25 or more products that use standby power – devices that are consuming electricity 24 hours a day. Standby power can account for 10% of an average household's annual electricity consumption.

Health & comfort

Decreasing standby power loss by using power bars is easy and does not compromise use or performance of your equipment. Using a surge protector also adds additional safety and security because it helps protect electronics from damage or destruction that can be caused by surges.

Environmental considerations

It is estimated that the savings in reducing products that use standby power nationwide to one watt would equal the amount of electricity needed to power 400,000 homes. Emissions reductions would be equivalent to taking a large coal-fired power generating unit offline.

  • Products that consume standby power include devices with remote controls and external power supplies (or adapters), clocks, permanently illuminated digital displays and LEDs (light emitting diodes), and many new larger appliances, such as washing machines and air conditioners.
  • The most effective way to eliminate standby power loss is to unplug the device when you are not using it.
  • For electronics/appliances that you do not unplug, use a surge protector or power bar with multiple outlets and switch off the entire strip when you are not using it. Using a power strip/suppression strip is especially useful if you are switching off several devices that are often used together such as a PC, a monitor and a printer.
  • "Smart strips" or current sensing power bars are a kind of power bar that links peripheral energy use to your computer's power use. Most current sensing power bars have 10 outlets. One outlet is called the "control outlet." You plug your monitor into the control outlet spot and any peripherals into the others. (There are also some "always on" plugs for the telephone etc.) As soon as your computer – and thus your monitor – goes to sleep, the current sensing power bar senses the change in current and shuts down all devices plugged into the controlled outlets. One touch on your computer keyboard or a click on the mouse will bring everything back to full power.
  • Another alternative is to consider buying energy-saving devices that offer a real or hard "off" switch. (This real or hard-off switch will completely disconnect the product from the electricity supply meaning it does not consume any standby power.)
  • Some devices have what is called a "soft off switch" which puts the product into the lowest power use mode but it still consumes some electricity.
  • Timers can be used to turn off standby power to devices that are unused on a regular basis.
  • Replacing battery-powered devices, such as cordless phones or rechargeable razors, with corded alternatives not only cuts down on the standby power required to charge the battery, but also reduces energy lost in battery charging and discharging inefficiencies.
  • Make sure that the switch for your surge protector or power bar is in a position where it can easily be turned on and off.
  • Unfortunately, if you have pay-TV services, you will probably want to keep your cable television converter powered up at all times, otherwise you risk rebooting problems, such as the costs of having the cable company reset your box each time you turn the power off.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label whenever you buy new electronics or appliances. ENERGY STAR identifies the most energy efficient products, which reduce energy use even in standby mode.
  • When purchasing new electronics or appliances, ask yourself whether you really need all the extra features, such as the timer for a coffee maker or a remote control for a fan.

Top 10 products that use standby power

  • Room Air Conditioner
  • Answering Machines
  • Clock Radios
  • Clothes Washer
  • Cordless Phones
  • Desk Computer
  • Fax Machine
  • Laptop Computers
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Computer Speakers
  • Video Game Consoles

Taking it further

If I switch off the surge protector, will my electronics still be protected from surges?
When you turn the power off on the protector, you are disconnecting the circuit, which will protect the electronics/appliances that are plugged to it. It is as if you were manually unplugging your electronics/appliances. The main purpose of the surge protector is to protect electronics while they are plugged in and susceptible to power surges.

What is the difference between a power strip and a surge protector?
A power strip and surge protector generally look very similar, but they perform different functions. The main purpose of a power strip is to provide multiple outlets for you to plug-in devices or appliances that require electricity. A surge protector also provides multiple outlets, but its main purpose is to provide protection from power surges.