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25 Oct 2019
Adam Bate Confused.com

How to defeat energy-draining vampire devices

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Vampires in the home suck power and cost money. Here's how you can slay vampire devices and save on your energy bill. 

According to our research, UK households waste £470M1 a year by leaving vampire devices on and nearly 4.6m2  households are confused about how much power devices use in standby mode. 

Vampire devices drain 135,000 hours of electricity per household per year costing Brits £68 a year on average – 6% of their total energy bill. 

Some may be confused as to why their bills are higher than they should be, and what they can do to stop this energy drain. We've got you covered.

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What is a vampire appliance?

Vampire devices are household electrical appliances that drain power when left on standby or when they aren’t in use.

When you use the appliance, you’re using its power output. But what about when you’ve switched off your TV and the red standby light tells you it’s off? 

That’s an example of vampire energy consumption. The TV continuously sucks up energy to record and perform internal data and connect to remote controls.

This ensures that the TV is readily available whenever you connect with it.

This is the handy part of modern technology but it’s at the cost of your monthly energy bill. 

READ MORE: How to make your home energy efficient

Which devices are energy vampires?

There are remote-ready vampires that have an obvious ‘standby mode’:

  • Games consoles

  • Televisions 

  • PC monitors 

There are also non-remote vampires, which leech on a constant supply of electricity to keep them in real-time:

  • Digital Radios

  • Microwaves

  • Alarm clocks

  • Smart home devices (Voice recognition devices like Alexa, Google Home)

  • Music speakers 

  • Mobile phones/Tablets – when they’re charging but not on/or are fully charged 

  • Laptops – when they’re charging but not on/or are fully charged 

  • Printers, faxing machines, shredders 

  • White goods (Tumble dryers, washing machines, dishwashers)

  • Kitchen appliances (Coffee machines, kettles)

Your energy bills are determined by the amount of electricity that your household uses.

That could be using your hairdryer for thirty minutes a day, having the lights on for six hours a day or leaving your TV on standby for eight hours a day. 

Every appliance has a different power output measured in watts, which can often be found on the product information.

Usage while in standby depends on the age of the device, ranging from 10-15W for older devices, or as low as 1W for modern ones.

When working out how much you pay for using the appliance, this is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh).

Of course, leaving a device on standby doesn't use as much power as when it's switched on, but the costs can soon start to climb.

If you don’t have the time to go digging around for this information, check out our vampire devices calculator. It estimates how much money you’re spending on wasted power every year based on the number of these items you have in your household.

How can I slay these energy vampires?

1. If you can avoid standby mode or any form of instant-on mode, do. Just turn switches off at the mains for your appliances and gadgets 

2. Don’t leave chargers plugged to your devices (laptops, phones etc) when you’re not using them and once they’re charged, disconnect the device and unplug the charger.

3. Turn your lights off when you leave the room. Better yet, check your light bulbs. Many light bulbs have different wattage outputs and therefore require more energy.

LED lights are the most energy efficient but it’s at least worth investing in light bulbs that are labelled as energy efficient. 

4. It seems obvious, but use your appliances to their full extent eg fill your washing machines and dishwashers rather than doing multiple loads.

A full fridge is good for temperature regulation, and adding a damp rather than soaking load in your tumble dryer will save energy use.  

5. Extension leads can be good! Plugging your chargers and electricals into one of these and switching it off at the mains, saves you the effort of finding all of your household vampires.

Don't plug multiple power strips into one another, though, and where you can, use ones with built in surge protection.

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What about the devices I need to keep on? 

There are certain appliances in your house that will be switched on for long periods of time eg your fridge and other white goods.

Though under the One Watt Initiative, newer appliances have a maximum standby mode of 1W, which is pretty energy efficient and will save you money in the long run. This is something to look out for if you’re looking to invest in new appliances.

An older TV uses approximately 12 watts of energy in standby mode. That would cost you an extra £18 a year just for the one TV, whereas if you did the same with a modern LED model you’d only cost yourself an extra £8 a year4

You can work out how energy efficient an appliance is by looking at a product’s specification, which tells you its full power output and in some cases its output when in standby mode.

Look for the energy efficient traffic light label on appliances: 

Energy efficiency (EPC) ratings chart

Sometimes these appliances cost a little more, but it could be worth investing in them in the long run when you look at how much it saves on your energy bill.

There'll be small things you can do with these appliances that'll help you save more on your energy bill e.g. run on eco mode. 

READ MORE: The best boilers to get this year

1. Using the help of an electrician, we sourced the amount of watts used per each of these common household items when in standby mode or when plugged in at the wall but switched off.

2. We then surveyed a nationally representative survey of 2,000 people in UK (16-21 October 2019) to find out how many hours each of these items was used per day. We were then able to calculate how many hours these items weren’t in use per day. Combined, this gave us an average of 370.43 hours per day – equating to 135,206 hours per year.

3. We then worked out the cost of leaving each these items on standby/plugged in at the wall but not in use per year. This was calculated using the following formula:

Not-in-use watts (A) / 1 kilowatt (1000) = kWh
kWh x latest OFGEM price cap (0.18) = cost per kWh
cost per kWh x no. of hours not in use (B) = standby cost per household per day
standby cost per day x 365 = standby cost per household per year (C)
Combined across all items, the cost per year is £45.74.

4. We then worked out the standby cost for each item across all UK households. According to ONS there are 27.6m households in the UK. We factored into this that, according to the nationally representative survey, 37.7% of people leave appliances turned on at the wall when not in use. 37.7% of 27.6m = 10,405,200m.
10,405,200 x standby cost per household per year (C) = total standby cost across all households per item (D)

Combined across all items, the total cost across all households is £475,973,617.

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