I've been toying with the idea of getting one of those 'Kill-A-Watt' devices, that you can hook up to various electronic appliances to see how much electricity they're using. However, since I'm on The Compact this year, this purchase would eat into my six 'freebies' (six items that I can purchase new, so I don't go completely crazy) unless I could find a used one.
When I was using the MagicJack phone system a few weeks ago, I had to keep my computer on all the time. It really bothered me! In fact, it bothered me so much that I sent it back with a 'thanks very much but I want a refund' message. I wondered how much electricity my computer was using just being on but idle during the evening or day when I was sleeping or at work. Of course I turned to the trusty internet to answer my questions. . .
First, I found this article on the green section of Yahoo that discussed the facts and myths surrounding standby electricity use. I was surprised to learn that set-top cable boxes and DVR machines are the worst offenders as far as drawing power even though they're technically not in use! Although these items can't really be shut off (the whole idea of a DVR is to work when you're not around, after all!) there are other ways consumers can reduce their utility 'footprint' around the house.
Probably the most helpful resource for consumers wanting to decrease their utility bills is this comprehensive list from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Researchers actually tested and measured the energy usage of a variety of products---when they were on, when they were in 'sleep' mode (as with a computer), and when they were off but still using power for some reason (such as the coffee maker with a clock). The results are pretty fascinating (and maybe the fact that I'm so interested in this has just exposed my inner nerd, but I don't care).
I was particularly interested in the results for a desktop computer (which I was using with the MagicJack). For example:
- The average watts consumed by a computer that is on, but idle: 73.97
- The average watts consumed by a computer that is off: 2.84
- The average watts consumed by a computer that is in sleep mode: 21.13
It's also important to point out that while none of the individual products on the Lawrence Lab table was a huge energy 'vampire', when the energy use of those appliances are taken as a whole, you can see how decreasing the standby power of just a few (or all) would make a difference.