Is Standby Power really 10% of Household Electricity Consumption?

It's an often quoted statement:

Standby power consumption is about 10% of household electricity usage.

But where does this rule of thumb come from, and is it accurate?

Standby Electricity vs. Standby Energy

The first thing to clarify is to say that we are talking about electricity consumption, not all energy consumption.

Home Energy Usage Australia 

If you do some research, you might find charts like this one from the Your Home Technical Manual. It shows that Standby only accounts for around 3% of total energy usage.

Many homes in Australia use natural gas or LPG for hot water and wood or gas for heating. This means that the ultimate percentage of electricity usage, in this case, might be up around 5%.

This is on the low side of all the estimates I have seen.

So, where did the 10% come from?

It seems that the 10% figure came from a very detailed study of standby power (PDF) consumption back in 2005.

This intrusive survey covered some 120 houses... A total of 8000 individual appliances were recorded during the survey.

Appliances were recorded in all relevant standby modes, such as active standby, passive standby or off mode.

And the results:

The average standby consumption for 2005 was found to be 92.2 Watts per household, or some 807 kWh per year. This equates to around 10.7% of residential electricity consumption in 2005.

When you break their results down by product area (below) you can start to understand where your priorities lie in terms of reducing standby power consumption. Computers and home entertainment equipment would be a good start:

Standby power - percentage contribution by type of product

Percentage contribution to total household standby power by type of product (in Australia, 2005) 

I have done this kind of analysis myself (but certainly not on that scale). I always land up at around 10%, in fact, some homes can be much higher. Interestingly, their study uncovered this as well...

It could be a lot worse

The study made the interesting point that if all appliances in a home were left on standby the figure would actually be up around 178.3 watts per household.

So, even back in 2005, many people were already making savings by switching off their standby power using products like this.

Where we're heading: more items, less standby per item

There's good and bad news for the future.

On one hand, our appliances are (generally) getting more energy efficient. For example, my MacBook Pro's standby power consumption is around 1 watt or less (depending on the mode).

On the flip side, we seem to be accumulating ever more appliances and electronic gadgets. So, individual appliance standby power may go down in the future, but we'll have more devices to keep an eye on.

- Ryan McCarthy

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