Cut down standby power with smart strips, charging stations

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Renee Monty, a Community Outreach representative with BC Hydro, recommends switching to an ENERGY STAR PVR and using smart strips to cut down on wasted energy in the home.

Get a handle on hidden electricity use with quick and easy tips

Posted by Renee Monty

In February, the world celebrated the Winter Olympic Games. With a significant time difference between British Columbia and Russia, many of us used our PVRs and mobile devices to take in the action. But were you as efficient as you could be catching those 4 a.m. hockey games?

Standby power can cause hidden electricity costs

Most of us are aware that electronic devices draw energy when in use, but what about when they're sitting idle? Standby power can account for up to 10 per cent of annual electricity costs for the average home. Personal video recorders (PVRs) are in standby mode most of the day, using a lot of electricity.

Here are some of my favourite tips for reducing standby power from your PVR:

Be smart by using an ENERGY STARĀ® PVR and a smart strip

On average, 70 per cent of the energy a standard PVR uses is consumed when in standby mode. One PVR can consume around 190 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year, and cost $18 a year to operate. To ensure your shows are recorded and to download regular updates from your cable provider, you likely leave your PVR on all the time . If you have multiple PVRs in your home, those costs can add up quickly.

Start by calling your cable provider and requesting an ENERGY STAR PVR, which are a minimum of 30 per cent more efficient than a standard model. If you're a TELUS customer, they offer an ENERGY STAR PVR that's even more efficient than the minimum ENERGY STAR standard: it uses 50 per cent less energy than a standard model.

No matter which PVR you use, a smart strip can help ensure your other components aren't using more energy than they need to.

  • Purchase a smart strip for your home entertainment system to reduce standby power. Smart strips are current-sensing power bars with multiple outlets.
  • The strip has a "control outlet" for your television, an "always on" outlet for a PVR, and peripheral outlets where you would plug in your remaining electronics like your DVD player and stereo speakers.
  • When the television is turned off, the smart strip senses the change in current and shuts down all devices plugged into peripheral outlets, except the PVR plugged into the "always on" outlet.

This allows you to reduce standby power on multiple devices, while allowing your PVR to remain on and perform updates. Using a smart strip for your home entertainment system is one of the smartest things you can do to save energy.

Another smart thing you can do? Unplug all those chargers and devices.

Create a home charging station, make it easier to unplug

By now, most of us are aware that we should "unplug" to reduce standby power. Consistently unplugging devices when not in use is often easier said than done. In our homes, most electronic devices are accompanied by a charger and these chargers tend to spread out and hide all over the place, such as drawers and bedside tables.

One solution to this problem is to create multiple "charging stations" around your home:

  • A charging station is a basic power bar with an "on/off" switch that you plug various devices into while charging, and then turn off when you are done charging.
  • You can leave your chargers plugged into the station permanently, remembering to turn the power bar off to reduce standby power.
  • This simple solution saves you from walking around your home and unplugging chargers from the wall. The charging station is a great way to save energy and simplify your life.

Renee Monty is a Community Outreach representative with BC Hydro who educates customers on Vancouver Island about ways to save energy and money.