back to article War On Standby: Do the figures actually stack up?

The War On Standby rumbles on: this week, courtesy of the UK government and "third sector" quangocracy, we heard yet again that gadgets left on standby suck vast, planet-wrecking, expensive amounts of energy from our electricity sockets. It's an idea which has gained a lot of traction over the years. Many Reg readers (and …


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  1. horsham_sparky


    my partner is always telling me to switch stuff off at the wall... last year we were given one of those automatic power off bricks that cuts off mains to your devices when it detects they're not in use, which she fitted to the TV

    Unfortunately due to the crap design, the surges this thing introduced zapped my £500 telly within 2 weeks of use!

    She got the hump when I told her that she could save 100s of times more leccy by not having the shower running 5 minutes before she gets in it.. "oh but I like it to be warm before I get in"

    damn do-gooding-lacking-in-braincells-econutters!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: annoying

      'She got the hump when I told her that she could save 100s of times more leccy by not having the shower running 5 minutes before she gets in it.. "oh but I like it to be warm before I get in"'

      Even if the 47W standby is true then it pales into insignificance when compared with a shower at 10kW ... and those 5 mins waiting "for it to be warm" use about the same as the 47W standby do in a day. Remember a year or two back in some serious discussion on radio/TV about how people could reduce their carbon footprint someone pointed out that the most effective method would be for everyone to take one less shower/bath a week!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: annoying

        Even at 10kw it's probably cheaper than filling a bath - boiling water on demand is often more efficient than having a hot water tank - so your 'bath' could cost even more.

        47w does not sound that bad - but x24 hours is about 1kw - so about 10p - so about £36 a year x 5 year = £180.

        I bought a small remote switch that turns the lot on - stick the controller on the wall as you come in the lounge - consumes less than 0.5w itself and was saving me over 150w with Sky box, TV, Apple TV, surround amp, etc. etc. So my saving could be up to 3x as much - i.e. £540 saved over 5 years for £10 cost. It's not 'quite' that much as sometimes people leave it on and it's on when we are using it - but that means more like 5-6 hours a day rather than 24 hours - conservatively probably saves around £400 over 5 years.

        1. horsham_sparky

          Re: annoying

          Hope you've got that lot on a surge protector on that lot.. those remote switches introduce a surge every time they switch something on. A lot of modern equipment isn't designed to take the surges.

          and remember surge protectors don't last forever, they get damaged by the surges as well. In the case of our telly it saved us a couple of quid in electric while it was working, but cost us £500 for a new telly!

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Remember that these switches are themselves in standby!

            They're cheap, and have much lower-quality PSUs than TVs etc.

            So how much power do they consume themselves? It is likely that some of them actually draw more power in their own standby than your TV does, and all of them will increase the power consumption when your TV is on.

            The only one I could find that gave consumption values was a US version, and it said 0.08W in standby, and 0.50W when on. Let's assume a UK version is the same (it's probably worse due to the higher voltage)

            My Plasma TV is specified to draw 0.30W in standby, thus I would save 0.22W when my TV is off, and cost 0.50W when my TV is on.

            This means that simply to break even, my TV has to be off for 2.3 times as long as it is on.

            Now take a look at a modern LED TV. Oh dear, 0.1W in standby.

            That's before you consider the damage the SSR (solid-state-relay) -based ones will do to your delicate electronics.

            1. David Ward 1

              Re: Remember that these switches are themselves in standby!

              From my experimental evidence, the timer switch I got from china (via a popular tat bazaar..) for a fiver seems to use between 0.08W and 0.12W over the course of a week. Why would a higher voltage imply higher power usage in standby? The device I have doesn't use solid state relays based on the mechanical clicks it makes when it switches, but presumably you are talking about leakage currents from solid state relays? if so what damage do you think this will do to your device? I would imagine surges would be more of a problem, but these are less of a problem with SSR's as they switch more reliably and quickly?

              1. horsham_sparky

                Re: Remember that these switches are themselves in standby!

                The problems occur when the device is switched when the mains is not on its zero crossing point, this leads to the surge currents discussed earlier. Only SSR's and other solid state devices allow this to be done accurately/reliably as mechanical relays are quite variable in their timing

                So it entirely depends on the device and its design.. but the rule of thumb is you get what you pay for (i.e. don't use a cheap device on your £500 telly!)

                and all of these devices will consume some kind of power (relay or SSR based), as they need some kind of active elements to look for the signals from the remote control to switch the TV back on. I'm not in the least bit surpised that this power can be as much as the TV's own standby current

                1. Richard 12 Silver badge


                  "Zero-cross" switching is irrelevant, it's almost exclusively a marketing thing. It has no bearing on device reliability or whether or not it'll damage the telly. It merely reduces EMI switching noise - which is a good thing if you've got a lot of them, otherwise irrelevant.

                  - Consider a 3-pin-plug or the switch on the socket. Does that do zero-cross detect? Does the act of plugging in a TV damage it?

                  AC SSRs are actually a pair of back-to-back SCRs or a Triac, just like a dimmer. This means that the waveform they produce is not sinusoidal (both due to being non-resistive and having a recovery time during zero cross) and that they never fully "turn off" - there is always a small leakage current through the SSR. There is also a notable insertion loss (fixed voltage drop) which makes them rather inefficient compared to a relay.

                  Many power supplies can be damaged by these effects - continually feeding it a small current that's not enough to start it and making the zero-cross point fuzzy are both bad things to do to a power supply. Switch-mode PSUs also draw their current in 'pulses', which means the SSR may not actually stay turned on throughout the cycle and may 'starve' the SMP. (This has all kinds of strange effects)

                  Put simply, you need a physical relay contact that goes "click", because that's what the PSU in your equipment was designed for.

                  The best is a physically latching one as then no power is consumed keeping the relay "on" - this is impossible to do with SSRs as they must be powered to turn on. Thus relay-based ones can be considerably more efficient than SSR ones.

                  That's assuming you even come out ahead in the first place - if you have multiple items on the switch then it might be worth it, but just a TV is almost certainly pointless.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: annoying

          The shower thing only works when you consider electric showers, but those of us who have immersion heaters don't save much by loosing those few minutes as we heat our water at night, when there is plenty of excess energy.

        3. Nuke
          Thumb Down

          @AC 1328hrs - Re: annoying

          Wrote " Even at 10kw it's probably cheaper than filling a bath - boiling water on demand is often more efficient than having a hot water tank - so your 'bath' could cost even more"

          Depends how you have a bath. "FILL" a bath? I bath in about 4 inches of water, I kneel in it.

          OTOH, my boss noticed that his teenage daughter's showers lasted for ages, so he timed her by the sound of it. Afterwards (by testing himself for that time with the bath plug in) he found it was enough to fill the bath to overflowing. He pulled the shower fuse after that.

          There is also a cultural difference. I am of a generation that was brought up to have a bath once a week, plus a shower in the pavillion after sports. Now however I know people who think it normal to have two, three or even four showers every day. It is too convenient to have a shower.

          As for hot water on demand, I have a washbasin heater like that. Often, after running hot for 5 seconds, it will decide I've had enough hot water and switch off the heat, making the water too cold to use - so that water and electricity is wasted.

          1. Rogan Paneer

            Re: @AC 1328hrs - annoying

            Instantaneous water heaters may be good for providing full flow hot water on demand, but in my experience, they don't like providing low flow rates- they tend to overhead and switch off to protect themselves.

        4. big_D Silver badge

          Apple TV, there's your problem...

          The original Apple TV calls standy-by turning off the video circuitry, the processor and hard disk still work full tilt in stand-by mode!

          The only way to really stand-by the darned thing is to yank the plug out the back!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: annoying

        the most effective method would be for everyone to take one less shower/bath a week!

        So you're the guy who stinks up London Underground then..

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: annoying

          I understand that's more of a collective effort.

        2. misotonic

          Re: annoying

          Do you SERIOUSLY think that having one less shower/bath a week is enough to cause a person to "stink up the underground". This would only be the case if that person already had only about two showers or baths a week - most people shower or bath much more often than they need to in order to stay clean and stink-free. Unless they have a body odour problem, but that's not most people...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: annoying

            I can honestly say I only have a shower every two days, and have no complaints so far. Every two days is fine, as long as you're not running around getting sweaty of course.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: annoying @misotonic

            I doubt he does seriously think that. That's called HUMOUR. You should be careful, there's quite a lot of it around here.

      3. relpy

        Re: annoying

        "the most effective method would be for everyone to take one less shower/bath a week!"


        The most effective method would be sharing...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: annoying

      No special hugs for you then!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: annoying

      My advice? Upgrade your partner. She doesn't sound very energy efficient.

      1. Paul_Murphy

        Re: annoying

        That's right - and new models are available on a continuing basis, so you may find it most economical to upgrade every year or two since the newer versions will come with more modern soft-ware (or maybe firm -ware is more appropriate?) and won't become obsolete so quickly.

        Of course it might be more expensive in the long-run, and disposable of the previous model needs to be handle carefully, but the efficiency gains should be an on-going bonus.

        Oh - I can see this idea running! :-)


      2. Charles Manning

        Nah, just put *her* on standby

        Switch her on when there's nothing on telly.

  2. Number6

    A bit low...

    Because I have computer gear on at home 24/7, my standing load is about 650W. It used to be around 900W but the wonders of virtual machines and swapping one bit of hardware for something more efficient has brought that down.

    It confuses the hell out of my electricity supplier, who has never managed to estimate my annual consumption because they seem to assume a certain ratio between summer and winter and that doesn't hold true for my house. Of course, random firings of a 7kW kiln also spike the results, so I'm afraid I've long given up worrying about the odd ten watts or so.

    1. Graham Wilson

      Re: A bit low...

      Sounds as if you've a smart meter. I'd nuke it if I were you.

    2. Richard Rae
      Thumb Up

      Re: A bit low...

      I confused the crap out of mine by installing a log burner....

      The gas consumption hardly went up during the winter and they had to send me a cheque for £300 :p

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: A bit low...

        "they had to send me a cheque for £300 :p"

        "I had given them an interest free loan of £300 :("

        Fixed that for you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A bit low...

        Except for the cost of the logs or splitter and log burner itself (which could have been 1-2k+) - I'm all for it but it's not without cost (even if that is time).

        1. misotonic

          Re: A bit low...

          @AnonymousCoward - Why be so negative? Log burners are great unless you are a total slob who can't be bothered to do anything worthwhile.

          1. Nuke

            @ misotonic - Re: A bit low...

            Wrote "@AnonymousCoward - Why be so negative? Log burners are great unless you are a total slob who can't be bothered to do anything worthwhile."

            Why are you so negative about AnonymousCoward? The guy is only pointing out that logs cost money. They also cost the environment - chopping down trees (the very icon of "greeness") to turn them into smoke and CO2.

            And what do you mean by "worthwhile"?

            1. Chimp

              Re: @ misotonic - A bit low...

              Log burners are much closer to carbon neutral than, say, mains powered heating.

              1. GrahamT

                Re: @ misotonic - A bit low...

                ...and as the French say; logs heat you twice, once when you cut them, and once when you burn them. Splitting logs is also one of the most therapeutic pastimes I know.

  3. Dunstan Vavasour

    The tyranny of "Every little helps"

    I wholly agree with Lewis. Trying to modify human behaviour to make an insignificant difference in overall consumption is counter-productive. Basing that on shoddy fieldwork is inexcusable.

    It's the same with plastic carrier bags: they get all over the place and cause harm to wildlife, but in terms of the mass of stuff in a family dustbin they are negligible - it probably takes as much material and energy to produce 100 carrier bags as one free MacDonalds toy with a happy meal.

    And as for mercury filled energy saving lightbulbs, the whole case for them is based on the heat being wasted: whereas for much of the year in Northern Europe the energy will be consumed in your central heating boiler rather than the lightbulb.

    Methinks the whole appliance-on-standby conceit was constructed as a straw man by the energy companies---by focussing attention there, people's energy consumption in other areas continues unabated, ensuring their profits.

    1. Anomynous Coward

      Don't disagree but I have to say there's something satisfying about encouraging the lowest possible standby energy use - it feels like it takes good design to achieve and so is just a laudable aim in itself even if it serves no real purpose.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agreed. Maybe it won't save me a fortune and it probably won't make the difference of me dying in a house fire or not, but every little helps; and it doesn't exactly kill me to shift my lazy ass one step sideways on the way to bed in order to turn my AV stack off at the wall.

        I *know* corporate and large-scale energy use is the problem as regards energy waste, just as I know that 48 hour long drug and vodka fuelled benders are the problem as regards my personal finances... but that doesn't mean that I should blithely throw away everything less than a five pound note in my pocket.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "but that doesn't mean that I should blithely throw away everything less than a five pound note in my pocket."

          So, the person who downvoted actually *is* too lazy to turn a plug off at the wall and throws loose change away?

          1. JP19

            After years of turning off at the wall the switches will be knackered and the expense and carbon emissions required to have an electrician drive to your house to replace them will exceed the cost and emissions of 'saved' standby power (unless you have some ropey equipment with needlessly high standby requirements).

            The cost of treating and lost production from back injuries caused by bending over to switch off and on at the wall socket is probably significant when compared to the savings.

            And much of the savings much of the year will just be replaced by your heating system.

            And unlike your heating system much of overnight standby power comes from zero carbon emission nukes (while we still have some).

            A comprehensive study tasked with finding the truth rather than the answer some eco green tosser wants would likely find it is more economic and greener to leave things on standby.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "The cost of treating and lost production from back injuries caused by bending over to switch off and on at the wall socket is probably significant when compared to the savings."


              Anyone fat and unfit enough to bugger their back up by reaching down to turn off a switch needs to do more exercise than get off their lazy asses to turn off a plug on the way to bed. Bending over once a day is not going to cause a repetitive strain injury. And anyone who thinks it's hard work is going to probably drop dead from a heart attack and thus do the planet a world of good anyway.

              Rather an eco green tosser than a fat, lazy, unfit and selfish one.

          2. Nick Stallman

            That 5c coin that fell down the side of the couch? Yeah I ain't going to get it.

      2. David Cantrell

        Energy usage in standby is so low these days and so the possible improvements are so marginal that I wouldn't be surprised if any funky design that improves it actually costs far more energy than it saves - energy used in design and manufacture, and the extraction of the raw materials.

        The most obvious case of energy savings in daily use being swamped by the cost of manufacture is the greenies' friend the Toyota Prius. It is far less environmentally friendly, both in terms of lifetime energy use and in pollution, than the sort of vehicle they love to hate, such as my (evil, oil-burning, FOR BUY FORE OH NOES!!!!!eleven!!) Hilux. Why? Well, the Hilux is basically a few bits of simple metal bolted together, with an expected lifetime mileage of 250,000 miles. The Prius has a lot more plastics, a lot more fancy metals (the raw materials and manufacturing cost of the battery is awful), and has an expected lifetime mileage of 100,000 miles.

        The Prius is so bad that, per mile, from manufacture to death, it costs twice as much energy to run than a Hilux, despite the Hilux getting only half the mpg.

    2. The Axe

      Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

      Totally agree about the carrier bags. Very visible, but quantity wise absolutly negliable. 0.0001% of land fill, because they are such light and flimsy things.

      However the straw man isn't constructed by the energy companies - it's by the eco-loonies. They don't want to tell their followers to stop using the power shower and the spot lights etc so they work on something which makes people feel like they are really doing something - when they aren't. So by turning off the TV you can make a great play out of showing you are looking after the planet and you can feel good about it, because it doesn't really change your behaviour that much. But being told to not have showers, etc. - that just isn't on. People need to be clean and not smelly you know, even hippies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

        You change what you can. If people insist on staying in the showers for five extra minutes for a wank, then that's a lost battle. Pick one that can be won. Encouraging people to turn off an AV stack on their way to bed is a low hanging fruit (shit: Did I really say that?!).

        Hell; remember that LP was only two weeks ago in favour of using electricity to make more drinkable water via desalination, so he could wash his car with it? Some people are pretty intractable, and will never lift more than a finger to reduce energy consumption.

        1. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

          LP's position is that we can and should produce lots and lots of energy without harming the environment, which would in turn make the reduction of energy consumption a secondary concern. You may disagree with nuclear power, but LP's position is at least self-consistent. The same cannot be said for the standby warriors who leave the shower running.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

            "LP's position is that we can and should produce lots and lots of energy without harming the environment"

            We don't have enough nuclear power to do that for at least twenty years, so he's doing things the wrong way around. cf: I don't go out and start spending money until payday.

      2. dkjd

        Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

        Actually plastic bags are a fairly big percentage of landfill, enough so that it just might make sense to mine them from old landfill sites for energy use ( Which until recently was pretty well pure sci-fi!

        However at the moment it probably would make more sense to burn plastic bags after they have been used and then use the heat for community warming (thereby curring out hte waste-dump middle man). Then the plastic bag is then just a step between the oil-well and the power-generation part. Of course if you want community warming then you need to build the power stations close to where people live, and that will not happen in Britain at the moment.

      3. Jean-Luc

        Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

        tree-hugging gf: Plastic bags are evil. They need to be eradicated. Save the planet!!!!

        me : I am soooo sorry about using them. However... what do YOU use as thrash bags?

        tree-hugging gf: Plastic thrash bags. Why?

        1. Lusty

          Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

          Plastic carrier bags have been biodegradable for years so cutting out their usage now is pointless!

          1. Wize

            Re: The tyranny of "Every little helps"

            Degradable plastic bags are a pain. Had some Christmas baubles in a bag in a box. Dug the box out last Christmas and the bag was shredded and balls everywhere. Great idea.

            Besides, if you do it the right way, they are more friendly.

            Get the bag for your shopping. Take it to work with your lunch in it. Use it for your gym kit on the way home (save having to clean your kit bag from sweaty gear) and reuse as binbags (save using harsh chemicals on cleaning a bin).

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: the standby conceit

      I think the appliance-on-standby conceit was actually true for a year or two about a generation ago. The first tellys with a standby facility were valve models and to keep them on standby meant keeping the valves warm. Consequently, they really did consume as much power on standby as actual use.

      Within a year or so, everything switched to solid-state and standby power consumption dropped by an order of magnitude. Once people actually started engineering proper solutions, standby power dropped a further order of magnitude. This latter drop indicates that there was some merit in flagging up standby usage. It's a shame that those who flagged it up used a straw man for the purpose.

    4. Charles Manning

      Make noise about the small stuff, ignore the big stuff

      The carrier bag issue is a big one. Sure, plastic bags are bad for sea creatures etc, but they have been part of a greenwashing campaign in the last few years.

      The supermarket chains tell us to be a new eco-shopper by taking your own bags and feeling smug. What they don't say is that over 99% of the environmental footprint (carbon, land use, whatever measurement you make) is caused by the contents of the bag. The eco-guilt of consumption has just been attached to the bag. Nice way to keep the shoppers consuming and take the focus away from the real issues.

      By far the worst though is the Greenpeace Black Pixel project which suggests that setting a few pixels on your screen back will save power on some screens. Even on the worst offending screens (ie giving them the best benefit of the doubt), the saving might be 50mW or so. You'd do better to take one less shower in your lifetime.

  4. joeW

    skipping one bath or shower saves energy?

    So you're saying the average Greenpeace member actually does do a lot to save the environment?

  5. Ross 7

    So basically LP didn't like the numbers and decided to make some up? Great story...

    "It's plain that a lot of the time the software was assessing things as being on standby when they were actually on and working"

    No it's not - there is no evidence for that at all. LP just presumed that as he thinks those numbers seem odd given his world view. I see no measurements taken by LP though to back that up, just some ideas and numbers pulled from the arse.

    "[standby] is apparently too expensive and damaging to be permitted.

    Meanwhile, curiously, it appears that such things as regular showers, hot drinks and food (previously refrigerated), powerful hair-furtling appliances, clothes and bedding laundered at frequent intervals, heating kept on at high levels throughout the winter etc etc; these are all inalienable human rights."

    Generally it's a good idea when making a comparison to use items that are comparable. If you compared things that can go on standby such as TVs, PCs etc with hairdryers, washing machines etc then that is entirely reasonable. Comparing the standby facility itself with hairdryers and washing machines is merely retarded.

    "According to the "special software", "Aerials" use zero watts when switched on - which they never were during the entire study period, apparently"

    Wow. Just wow. So the proof that the software was not working correctly is that it reports zero energy usage for a device when turned on that was never turned on? Please tell me I don't have to explain that . You'd have to have an IQ <70 to think that was an issue.

    Feel free to do a year long survey of a randomly chosen population to test your ideas and report back here, but please don't just witter on for two whole fucking pages on the grounds you don't like the numbers. If you want to leave your tele on standby go for it - I don't have a problem with it. You pay the bill. Just quit the whole Daily Fail "nobody can tell me what to do/think" crap. Pretty please?

    1. edge_e

      sorry ross but

      "According to the "special software", "Aerials" use zero watts when switched on - which they never were during the entire study period, apparently"

      Wow. Just wow. So the proof that the software was not working correctly is that it reports zero energy usage for a device when turned on that was never turned on? Please tell me I don't have to explain that . You'd have to have an IQ <70 to think that was an issue.

      You really missed the point here and your rant sounds really stupid because of it.

      The aerial was registered by the software as being in standby where as in fact it was on. Aerial boosters don't have standby modes.

      You could argue that it was in standby when the telly was off and add it to the list of evil things that should be turned off but to say it was never turned on is quite silly.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: sorry ross but

        You need to spot irony in written composition without <sarc> tags to explain it. The graph from report told the story. It was the report that implies that the aerial used more power when in standby than it it did when in use.

        All Ross did was reword the implication into actual English. Ross' point was that the software was really stupid, a fact you emphasize yourself in saying the software treated the aerial as in standby when in fact it was on. You draw the evident conclusion that the software was mixed up, but not the follow-on point: how can duff software provide any trustworthy guidance?

    2. Irongut

      IQ less than 70?

      Unfortunately that would be you Ross.

      You see the thing is the software thought the ariel booster was never on but in fact it was always on. So the reported standby power is actually the on power. This shows that the special software was actually sitting next to you on the bus to school, licking the windows.

    3. umacf24

      Ross, I think the point about comparing non-standby equipment and activities to standby is misplaced. The concern here is not "What consumption is better?" but rather "What to do?"

      1) We're entitled to make choices within constraints, and I might well choose to leave the TV on standby and not iron my shirts. Over the year, that's going to come out way ahead (down) on energy consumption and that is what we are trying to achieve.

      2) The standby thing appeals to the "every little helps" idea, and that's a fallacy that is leading people astray. If we all do a little, then in national and global terms we'll achieve a little. If we want to cut energy we have to make major changes: ending discretionary travel, wearing warm clothes indoors, making buildings, machines, clothes and everything else last much longer, having fewer children, buying in-season locally-produced goods and produce whatever the cost. That's what would help, not switching off the telly, no-matter how heartwarming it feels to do that. (There is another word for this plan, unfortunately, and it is "poverty.")

      Or mayby we should stop messing around and build out some serious nuclear capacity.

    4. Jeebus

      You're in the wrong place Ross, the nutters have well and truly taken a foothold now, this place is nearly finished, it's only good to come on and slag the halfwits off, the days of this site being respected died when Page took over, peddling his neocon views.

      Not happy unless a brown person is under his jackboot.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        "Not happy unless a brown person is under his jackboot."

        Is this thread the quickest call on Godwin we've had?

        But anyway Jeebus, in view of your irrelevant and undoubtedly inaccurate attribution of PC heresies to LP, perhaps you should heed your own advice and fuck off back to the web site of Tree Hugger & Pseudo Science Review.

      2. Fibbles

        Re: Jeebus

        I'm not overly happy with some of the stuff el reg has been publishing lately or the direction in which the comments section seems to be heading. If you could get of your high-horse for five minutes though and stop raging against Lewis just because he is Lewis, you'd see that this time he's not actually talking out of his arse.

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    High leccy bill? Don't look at me!

    I never use any powerful hair furtling devices!

    Never have, never will.

  7. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    I watched TV at every start of the year with my light turned off when I'd have normally left it on and from the saving there have offset enough electricity usage to allow me to leave all my equipment in standby for the rest of the year or more.

    When I leave my light off to save more than I ever would use in standby I am still rebuked for that standby use by my environmentalist friends which suggests to me they are more interested in dictating social behaviour than saving the planet.

    Go and pick on what would really change things, not easy targets which won't.

  8. dkjd

    We need to invent light switches!

    Then you won't have to disconnect the transformer to stop the transformer power drain for your ceiling lights Lewis!

    Put a 230V on/off switch next to the door of the room and that would surely stop the transformer drawing watts out of the electricity supply.

    1. edge_e

      Re: We need to invent light switches!

      assuming your electrician has run the pre transformed supply to the light switch and not the post transformed low voltage.

      1. jolly

        Re: We need to invent light switches!

        Since Lewis is talking about ceiling spotlights he probably means an arrangement where multiple lights are controlled with one switch. Low voltage ceiling lights usually have one transformer per light and all of these transformers will be controlled by one switch. In this case the switch would carry 240v to all transformers when switched on.

        So, in the vast majority of cases, the idea of wasting power by having low voltage ceiling lights is garbage - when they're off they're off (transformers and lights).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We need to invent light switches!

          Yep, I've done a fair bit of downlighting with more than one spark and I've never seen anything other than the arrangement described by jolly.

          In fact, I've never seen any kit that would actually support any other arrangement. Many sparks aren't keen on working on ceiling fans with a built-in timer, as they've got a permanent live. An arrangement for downlighters that only switched the low-voltage supply would require either another switch or a permanent live - not a great idea if you can avoid it.

          Must say though, downlighters must result in energy waste due to the sheer number that must be manufactured - kitchens that had used to have one fluorescent often now have up to 12 or more downlighters. And the bulbs fail with alarming regularity too. Add in those with the twist-in batton terminals that tend to take out 5amp consumer unit fuse when they go, they add up to a right pita.

          1. M Gale

            Re: We need to invent light switches!

            Re GU10 (and similar) downlights. Try the 240v LED versions. They're more expensive, but a 5 watt LED lamp will easily match a 50w halogen, with the advantage that you can put the palm of your hand right up against an LED downlight that's been on for an hour. No need to start driving heatsinks up into the insulation, and a tenth of the electricity cost for the same amount of light output. Not to mention the truly ridonkulous lifespan of an LED.

            Awesome and win all round, really.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: We need to invent light switches!

              Try the 240v LED versions

              Often considered it, however as it's me that buys the bulbs, but it's her that pays the electric bill...

            2. the spectacularly refined chap

              Re: We need to invent light switches!

              High power LED lights certainly need heatsinking, in fact that can be slightly problematic at times - nothing you wouldn't have to face with filament bulbs but which can be difficult to work around once the "no heatsink" myth gets established somewhere.

              There are other issues too - colour fidelity for a start. Unlike filament bulbs which emit a continuous spectrum LED lights emit three spot wavelengths and that is all, causing all manner of subtle colour effects. You only need a couple of occasions where e.g. the wrong resistor is chosen because a purple colour band appears to be brown, and saving a few pennies in electricity looks like a VERY false economy.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: We need to invent light switches!

                As many have pointed out, it's not the transformers for the lights that are at fault (and a required by buliding regs e.g. for bathroom SELV lights) but the bulbs themselves.

                Take my bathroom for example: 4 x 35w 12v halogens with SELV transformers, they produce the same amount of light as the 20w strip shaving light above the mirror.

                Some people install these downlights in their lounges, usually ten or more, and usually 50w each, that's a lot of power.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: We need to invent light switches!

                I got some GU10 LED bulbs for my kitchen. They've got three LEDs in each, part of the casing is the heatsink, done in a really pleasing to look at kind of way, crucially the fit properly into the lamps and were only six quid. Oh and they're so bright and so white that you almost have to wear sunglasses, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

            3. AdamWill

              Re: We need to invent light switches!

              Also, your room doesn't feel like a damn furnace in summer, I presume. My kitchen has three halogen track lights and they warm the damn place up at least four degrees, feels like. Unfortunately I can't find any LEDs that'll work in the head units...

            4. Grouchy Bloke

              Re: We need to invent light switches!

              I've been playing with these LED's for a couple of years now.

              the stated equivalent wattage is generally way off the mark. So I've got 8 lights in my kitchen, two sets of four. Four halogens and four LED's. The LED's are staggeringly dim compared to the 50w halogens and cost 10x as much.

              I've tried various types, but the people selling them as I say, are exagerating their capabilities and shopuld be taken out and shot.

              1. Ellis Birt 1

                Re: We need to invent light switches!

                For those trying (and those disappointed by) LED GU10s or MR16s, go for the warm white versions.

                It is down to how we perceive the light. The same intensity of a 'warm white' will appear brighter than a 'cool white'.

                Someone took this advice with some scepticism and changed the GU10 LEDs in a lift car - the difference was substantial - looking even brighter than the original halogens.

    2. Irongut

      Re: We need to invent light switches!

      You've never rewired house lights have you dkjd.

      1. Fuzz

        Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

        I seriously hope you never have either.

        The light switch on the wall switches the mains voltage. The transformer(s) are connected after the switch. If your switches are switching the low voltage you would also need to provide a means of isolating the transformer.

        The only time the switch doesn't directly switch the mains voltage is when the lights are controlled by some sort of automation system then the switches control the controller which controls the lights but this kind of setup isn't common in a domestic setting.

        1. M Gale

          Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

          One transformer per light? Are you mad?

          Transformers are (or should be) rated to drive a certain number of lights, or up to a certain wattage. One transformer per 50w 12v halogen is a little.. excessive.

          Also, if you've wired things to run from the transformer to the junction to the light, then please, for your and everyone else's safety, pull your damned breakers out and get a proper electrician in to do the job. Flicking the switch should turn everything off, transfomer(s) included.

          That said, I have had to fix some real bodge jobs done by so-called qualified electricians before now.

          1. jolly

            Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

            "One transformer per light? Are you mad?"

            Well if I am, presumably my two electrician friends are mad, and so is the building inspector!

            1. M Gale

              Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

              "Well if I am, presumably my two electrician friends are mad, and so is the building inspector!"

              Considering I've seen stuff signed off that looks like a horror story, well that wouldn't surprise me.

              Didn't surprise me when it came undone a few years later too. Luckily the only thing that happened was the immersion heater stopped working. Nothing caught fire.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

            > One transformer per light? Are you mad?

            No, just sensible. If one of my transformers blows (which whilst not happening on a daily basis isn't exactly unheard of), it'll take out one light, not a whole bunch of them, so I can get away without fixing it for at least a week. I also know exactly where to look for it.

            Every spark I've seen does it with one per downlighter.

      2. Charles 9

        Re: We need to invent light switches!

        I have. And last I checked, any light transformer is located at the connection to the mains, as they're designed to take on the same wires as a standard incandescent light base. It's the transformer that then feeds the low voltage to the lights themselves.

        So when you flick the switch, you're engaging the transformer, which in turn kickstarts the light. Similarly, cut the switch, you cut power to the transformer, so there's no way it can draw power while it's off (unless they can demonstrate how a transformer can draw mains current across an open circuit). In any event, those transformers only draw extra power only during the startup phase. Once it's maintaining, it's a rather efficient system. I once heard that switching on and off constantly was also the best way to go for such fixtures, since the switch-on would only consume the same amount of power as having the light steadily on for around 23 seconds or so.

  9. Anomynous Coward

    Warm fuzzy feeling

    I assume all this 'wasted' energy used by devices on standby is warming my house up and saving on my heating costs - so for about half the year it's doing even less harm (although if one ran air con in the warm weather, should such a thing ever occur again in the UK then perhaps there would be an additional cost during that time).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warm fuzzy feeling

      Well yes and no - it's not very targeted - a transformer in your loft is just heating your roof space and even in other areas it will generate heat but maybe not when you need it (middle of the night / when you are out) or actually generate heat when you want the room cooler!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rumble Tyer

    The one that annoys me is the tumble dryer.

    We go round unplugging things whose standby is around 5mW, then stuff thngs back in the tumble dryer for another two hours if they are 'a bit damp'

  11. horsham_sparky


    If they really wanted to make a difference to UK leccy consumption, they should make CHP systems mandatory for all houses.. when the tech is ready of course. take a look at these guys for example

    installing one of these will save far more leccy than worrying about standby power or hair furtling devices

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: actually

      How exactly do CHP systems save electricity? Changing the origin is one thing, saving another.

      1. Captain TickTock

        Re: actually

        Reduced transmission losses between electricity generation and use.

        That's the idea anyhoo.

    2. edge_e
      Thumb Up

      Re: actually

      Interesting link,

      need convincing that the electricity bill will be reduced more than the gas bill will be increased though

      1. horsham_sparky

        Re: actually

        CHP uses gas like a conventional boiler. However it turns the gas into leccy with via the fuel cell with heat being a waste product.. but here's the clever bit, that waste heat is used to heat your water for central heating. so you use the same amount as gas you would normally, but you're generating free(ish) leccy at the same time.

        Overall it makes more efficient use of your gas that any conventional boiler can, and with leccy from the grid being much more expensive than than the equivalent kWh of gas, you'll save a lot of cash overall

        1. horsham_sparky

          Re: actually

          a couple of useful wikis;

          CHP systems are already used commercially to reduce energy bills, they just haven't made the domestic market yet

        2. M Gale

          I like the idea, but...

          "and with leccy from the grid being much more expensive than than the equivalent kWh of gas"

          For now.

          Diesel used to be cheaper than petrol. Then lots of people bought diesel. Oh, lookit what the fuel companies went and did!

          1. aelfheld

            Re: I like the idea, but...

            It seems to have escaped your notice that a higher demand for a product - where, as in the case of refined fuels, production is limited by capacity - will result in higher prices.

            If you don't care for the price of diesel fuel, go back to gasoline.

      2. A J Stiles

        Re: actually

        As your statements will show, a kilowatt-hour of gas is cheaper than a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

        Since all the increased gas consumption gets turned into electricity (an engine is basically a device for turning fuel into heat, with some kinetic energy as a minor by-product), every kilowatt-hour of electricity you're getting from the CHP comes at the price of a kilowatt-hour of gas.

        1. umacf24

          Re: actually

          This isn't really comparing like with like. The point of electrically "fired" heating is that it uses a heat pump to recover head from the environment. So 1KWe yields 3+ KWt at central-heating temperatures. In the overall context of huge efficiencies of scale and temperature in big gas turbines (running at 40%+ efficiency) this consumes less gas than burning it at home and getting 1KWt from it. So I think CHP is a bust, and would be a total nightmare a) to administer if we had a lot of it to integrate with electricity consuimption and b) for obvious reasons to convert to carbon-free energy when we get that sorted.

    3. umacf24

      CHP is a snare!

      Not convinced. Not at all convinced. Waste heat is not free, small installations are desperately inefficient, and the assumption that you can sell the electricity when you want the heat is rash. (That is, you may get a feed-in tariff, but it's not necessarily economically efficient.)

      I would have thought a big gas turbine station driving a three-fold electric heat pump would be more efficient in gas terms. And when we do convert to nukes, of course it goes completely carbon free with no retrofit.

      1. horsham_sparky

        Re: CHP is a snare!

        Always nice to see such scientific well reasoned arguments based in fact :-p

        if you look at the pattern of boiler useage its typically in the winter when people are at homes, with the lights on, TV/kettle on you don't necessarily need a good feed in tariff to see the benefits.

        There are plenty of studies to show CHP will reduce energy consumption in the domestic environment, Ceres have a few on their website.

        with regards to centralised generation, take a look at this part of their website

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

          "Always nice to see such scientific well reasoned arguments based in fact :-p"

          I work for a major energy company (hence AC) and we're trying to shift things like this. But there's some dreadful downsides, the worst of which is that most gas fired micro-gen units are usually so expensive they have a sixteen year payback (even with a feed in tarriff subsidy) but only a ten year service life.

          They suffer from limited efficiencies, and the subsidy is mostly from the poorer masses to middle class eco-twats, just like solar PV. There's also further knock on effects of all forms of micro-generation (solar PV included), because all the grid costs and capital costs of the standby/baseload or peaking needs have to be recovered on fewer units sold through the meter, so if micro-gen catches on, everybody else sees their bill go up, because the micro-gen users aren't properly charged for this back up. The cost of buying non-forecast power demand is ruinous, and if micro-gen users were paying what they ought, they'd find that their total costs would actually go up.

          So if people want micro-gen, then don't let me stop them. But let's throw the buggers fully off grid, and make sure they pay for it themselves entirely, rather than relying on me to pay for their home generation, for their grid backup, their baseload, and their peak demand. Oh, and to avoid making the problem of NOx and SO2 emissions worse, let's hold micro gen owners to the same emissions standards that apply to big power plant.

          Notwithstanding the relatively modest grid losses, the most efficient, cleanest, and most reliable form of electric power generation is centrally generated, grid despatched power. A combination of perhaps 30% nuclear and 70% CCGT would have the lowest costs and lowest emissions, and we wouldn't have the nonsense of subsidies for crap technologies like wind, solar and micro gen.

          1. peter_dtm

            Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky


            wow - a properly reasoned fact based argument .....

            don't worry; it will never catch on.

            None of the eco loons actually believe that 2+2 =4; so using rational arguments will never get you anywhere; you have to find a nice emotional argument (how many polar bears will this save ?)

            Have a pint - lots of CO2 generated when you make beer (or lager).

            1. horsham_sparky

              Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

              I brew my own.. so even more generated mwahahaha

            2. A J Stiles

              Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

              Yes, but the CO2 from brewing was already in the atmosphere before the barley turned it into glucose. You aren't adding more carbon into the cycle as would be the case if you were burning fossil fuels.

          2. horsham_sparky

            Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

            The thing I like about the CHP fuel cell units is that you're not in fact using any more gas than you normally would to heat your home. You're getting some free* electricity in the bargain.

            However, if you read the original post, I said "when the tech is ready of course". Agreed that at the moment the expense vs payback period and service life probably doesn't justify it, hence why I inserted the above comment. That will likely change they perfect the technology in the coming years.. and yes someone (the early adopters as always) will pay for that so the rest of us get the benefits in a few years time

            * these are likely to be more expensive than conventional boilers so not free if you count installation cost over a conventional boiler. but you reduce your leccy bill in conpensation.. whether thats enough to compensate is open to debate :-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

              Industry AC replies @Horsham Sparky

              I'll be very surprised if they ever perfect the technology for domestic use. The enhanced complexity of microgen means reliability will always be notably lower than a straight boiler, and the durability of components like inverters is a known problem for all small scale generation. Judging by your moniker that's more your province than mine, but I know that we expect such components to last an average of ten years, and the fuel cell cores are even more problematic. Things are just as bad with non-fuel cell microgen technologies, albeit for different reasons.

              Your assertion that the electricity involves no extra gas use ignores the fact that the household power demand is massively variable, and correlates only roughly with heating demand. So when my CH fires up on a winter morning for space or water heating, there's stuff all demand for electricity, because nobody's out of bed. Yes, you can export it, but that involves billing and metering complexities that cost more again, plus you need to factor the power station gas wasted by keeping turbines running as spinning reserve. A bit of intermittent microgen isn't going to save you any worthwhile amount of money. The feed in tariffs might move the numbers to break even or a modest profit (for those with no social conscience), but at standard rates a microgen boiler would take about forty years to achieve a payback or more..

              I'd really, really like microgen to work, but I just don't see this happening any time soon. Most of the units on offer have been under development for more than a decade, and are on third or fourth generation pre-production runs, and they've still got these fundamental problems. Given that a modern condensing gas boiler is around 90% efficient, making the device five times as costly, three times as complex, and reducing its service life by a third to eke out as electricity perhaps a quarter of the remaining 10% energy makes no sense at all.

              1. horsham_sparky

                Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

                Good points and well made :-)

                Maybe I'm too much of an optimist and really want to see it working. oh well

                Yep, you're right, inverters won't last forever, depends on the environmental conditions (they don't like heat), but I'd imagine there are clever ways to mitigate that (water cooling with a bit more overal efficiency as a fringe benny?). They can be made pretty reliable with well thought out and conservative design, it depends on the designer and the cost target.

                I'm not so worried about the inverter issue as it can probably be resolved, however the fuel cell is the tougher target as the gas that's supplied isn't as clean as it could be and this can poison the cells if not filtered properly. if they can solve that one... :-)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

                  Industry AC again: I'm sure they can sort the various physical fouling and chemcal poisoning issues, albeit either adding cost, complexity or losing efficiency (or all three). The downsides of some of the other microgen and CHP solutions are more varied, and still require work as well. Sadly we've not identified any free lunches in micro gen or micro CHP.

                  The only "free lunch" is insulation. If you haven't got a foot of loft insulation (plus insulation over boarded areas), cavity wall insulation, DG, and draft control measures then get it done. Longer term we can go to even higher levels of insulation for existing buildings by using vacuum insulation panels or aerogels to do additional internal wall insulation (either as first fit on solid walls, or to replace existing dry lining on newer insulated cavity buildings) which would dramatically reduce heating energy use. There were some articles by Damon Hart Davis on El Reg a while back looking at things he'd done in this area - certainly such things are physically and technologically practical now, but won't be cost effective unless the makers and fitters can reduce the materials cost and standardise the retro-fit to keep those costs down. Do a search and read his articles - really good stuff (and maybe he could give us an update on how things have turned out?).

                  I've been trying to encourage my lot to take up these ideas on "ultra insulation", but in response to government policy we're more focused on filling out the dwindling numbers of wall cavities (increasingly the narrow gap, coastal, and otherwise difficult to do stuff), and working on solid wall properties (IMHO that should be CPO'd and demolished, because they're usually very poor in a multitude of other aspects).

            2. Ellis Birt 1

              Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

              "The thing I like about the CHP fuel cell units is that you're not in fact using any more gas than you normally would to heat your home. You're getting some free* electricity in the bargain."

              Not quite - look at the CHP efficiency as a central heating boiler alone. The outlet gasses of a modern 'A' rated condensing boiler are remarkably cool, barely warmer than body heat. Any electricity generated will be at the expense of heating efficiency.

              Anything else would be running into the limits imposed by the first law of thermodynamics.

              Overall, the only benefit of domestic CHP is that the reduction in heating efficiency is less than the energy wasted as heat at a power station. But remember that we are past peak oil and these use a dwindling resource as their fuel. In the long term, alternative sources of electricity will reduce the benefits of any domestic CHP systems.

        2. Aaron Em

          Re: CHP is a snare!

          The company selling it says it can cure a rainy day? Oh, what a surprise!

      2. A J Stiles

        Re: CHP is a snare!

        You don't need a fuel cell. A small Diesel engine will do fine, coupled up to a suitable alternator, rectifier and grid-synchronous inverter (at this scale it's easier to sync up your crests and troughs with the ones from the grid in the electrical domain, than in the mechanical domain). The water jacket of the engine is plumbed in place of your old central heating boiler.

        You can run the thing on waste vegetable oil. Even if the oil needs to be processed, you don't need to pay fuel duty on the product as it is for a non-road-going application. (Technically, you can even claim back the duty you paid on fuel you used for your lawnmower / chainsaw -- but almost nobody does.)

  12. Graham Wilson

    I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

    I'm damn well fed up with gear that doesn't have a mechanical on/off switch with a real air gap. One never knows whether the damn thing is actually off or on standby.

    Worse still is the press-and-wait-5-seconds-for-something-to-happen switch. These devices are a cursed menace and make my blood pressure rise every time I have to wait for one. The original person who came up with the concept should be put in the stocks for a week and the public pelt him with equipment that uses them--it'd be an excellent use for old laptops.

    It's so annoying that I've stared taking the battery out of my laptop so when I switch it off at the power point it stops within milliseconds not 5 seconds or much longer when windows wants to shut down. Problem solved--well for laptops anyway.

    (Please don't bore me with the data loss issue, I use my machine in a way so I don't lose data that way. This delay isn't my problem, it's Microsoft's and those damn phone manufacturers who won't let you disconnect instantly. I used to have an old Nokia where I could press the battery clip-on button and quickly slide the battery a few mm then back which would disconnect the phone instantly, it was brilliant--when in a meeting with phone still on in my pocket I could turn it off before the end of the first ring. Can't do that these days now the batteries are inside. Classic example of a scientific step backward--or engineers with too little to do! The first company that brings out an instant-off cell phone will make a killing methinks.)

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

      "Worse still is the press-and-wait-5-seconds-for-something-to-happen switch."

      You didn't own a TV before 1990 then, did you?

      1. Graham Wilson

        @A.C.-- Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

        I did--many of them--and they tuned off instantly when the power was turned off. You obviously weren't around back then.

        1. soldinio

          Re: @A.C.-- I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

          by "turned off instantly", do you mean gradually faded to the little white dot, then turned off?

          1. Graham Wilson

            @soldinio -- Re: @A.C.-- I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

            If there's a little white dot then the EHT dot suppressor circuitry is not working. (The EHT smoothing capacitor is the CRT's glass (dielectric)).

            White dots are caused when this EHT capacitor holds some resilient charge, the little white dot (caused by this charge) is deliberately suppressed to stop damage to the tube. Damage happens when the raster scanning collapses and there's still charge in the EHT system. The scanning electrons which are meant to cover the whole screen collapse into a small thin beam. This is too intense for the phosphor and damages it--hence the need for a suppressor circuit.

            If you see a dot then the set is faulty.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

      "I use my machine in a way so I don't lose data that way"

      You mean you don't turn it on? Windows spends an inordinate amount of time writing to the hard disk for various reasons - registry, logging and virtual memory are probably the top 3. How do you avoid using these while still running windows?

      If you boot from an optical drive and run in memory then yes, you won't run the risk of damage to a file structure

      1. Graham Wilson

        @Nick Ryan -- Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

        So what, you don't need that data unless you're a metadata freak. This is portable machine--not a desktop, and I couldn't give a stuff about metadata/config changes etc. being saved, restored or whether Windows has things to do--I've not enough time left in my life to wait for a fucked Windows which should have been designed originally to continually do these tasks in the background rather than at shut shutdown time (the most inconvenient of times).

        People like you shouldn't be an apologist for Microsoft! That's why we've had to put up with such substandard shit for 20 years or more. If more people complained then the problem would have been fixed by now.

        BTW, I don't use FAT32, NTFS usually doesn't cross-link. And I also use ERDNT which restores the previous day's automatic backup of the registry (ERDNT automatically stores the registry for the last 30 days but in the 3 years I've had this laptop I've never had to restore the registry because I've pulled the plug out).

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

        I think he means "I never run check disk so none of my files have ever been marked as corrupted"

        1. Graham Wilson

          @phuzz -- Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

          Windows automatically runs CHKDSK when it considers the shut down hasn't been clean. This happens on FAT regularly, rarely on NTFS. NTFS usually fixes 'simple' dirty shutdowns--major crashes during activities such as power-out during multiple/long writes is another matter (read the NTFS spec).

          It's not my practice to turn off the machine when I'm saving a file or when the disk activity light is on. No write--no problem.

          BTW, despite Microsoft not fixing the problem for decades, they are very aware of it. I suggest you read the spec.--or what's been released so far--on ReFS (Resilient File System), the next generation file system for Windows ans Microsoft calls it. ReFS is specifically designed to finish writes BEFORE journal/index updating etc. This way, no data is lost during a power outage.

    4. Aaron Em

      Re: I'm fed up with gear without mechanical switches.

      Yeah, and I bet the helpstaff who have to rebuild your machine four times a year would say just the same thing, too.

      Since when are IT management allowed in here? I thought this was the room for people with brains in their heads. Bloody neighborhood, I suppose.

  13. Richard Wharram

    Spot on

    Standby power drain doom is for the most part a load of b0ll0x.

    My mother in law still nags me that televisions use the same amount of electricity when on standby as when they are on. When I try to explain that they don't I get told off for thinking I know better than the government or 'the experts.'


    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      Re: Spot on

      Simple solution, just pretend to be one of 'the experts'

      "Oh yeah, I had to do tonnes of tests on this sort of thing at work. They all were very conclusive"

      1. Bad Beaver
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Spot on

        dotdavid, it does not work that way. People have a tendency to assign, label and rate others and their assumed level of expertise. They decide what you know and what you can do. Not you. Ever noticed how your average ignoramus superior person will not take your advice if it does not concern the fields he or she assigned you to – but will happily follow the exact same advice if you channel it through a person he perceives as a proper mouthpiece to emanate such information? This type of prejudice is a very interesting – if annoying – phenomenon. People do it because it allows their brains to act faster and with less thinking effort. I guess it is a reason why we invented degrees and certificates in the first place.

        Sadly, it turns out you can be a nobel laureate in five different fields and your mother will still much rather believe in the advice of "experts" she picked up god knows where.

    2. M Gale

      Re: Spot on

      Sounds like the sort of person it's worth creating a test rig for. Multimeters are cheap these days, and it'd be funny to see her face when the current required drops through the floor as you turn the device off.

      Especially if immediately followed with "yes actually, I do know better."

      1. VinceH

        Re: Spot on

        If Richard's mothr-in-law is anything like my stepfather, that won't work. He'll just be told he must have done something wrong.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Spot on

          Yeah, no kidding. "Are you sure you know how to read that thing?"

          Now, granted, my in-laws are damned fine people; in fact I do their IT support because their other son can't be arsed to do it without yelling at them for how stupid they are -- this from the guy who really doesn't see a need for silly nonsense like putting a firewall between a cable modem and a Windows XP box. Next time he touches their equipment for any reason, I'm going over to his house with a crowbar...

  14. richard 7

    What everyone in the industry knows already...

    We looked into this a few years back and actually seriously looked at it, IE we used these weird things called meters, put a device on, recorded the comsumption, used it a bit (if it was something load sensitive, recorded data, then put it to sleep and recorded the data again.

    What we found pretty much confirmed what we thought, its a non issue. We had some devices well down in the tens of milliwatts range in standby. A few older transformer based bits of kit wernt so good but end of the day it amounts to a tiny tiny amount of power draw, 80 odd watts is just silly.

    We stay at the pub we run during the week, the power bill there is so horrific we dont pay attention to it as in the grand scheme of things when your baseline draw is 9KWH peaking to 13KWh 1W makes no odds. However this means back home the fridge is kept company by the sky router, the Sky box, TV and AV amp, all in standby. We had an issue with the fridge a few months back wich resulted in it dying horribly (and stinking the house out) But in doing so it took its fuse out, giving us a baseline load figure of a whopping 4 watts, a little chasing (while I should have been shovelling the contents of the fridge into bin bags) showed that 2.5W of that was the Sky router leaving the TV (an older LG TFT), the Audio amp and the Sky box at 1.5W each. The thing is even that could be in the noise of the monitoring unit sat on the meter tails too.

    We make equipment to run in veichles and we have to be very aware of power draw in these situations. We arent a world class company and we arent working with bleeding edge parts, but our standby currents are in the nA range, if we can do that I'm sure a multi biillion pound company like Lg, Sony or Netgear are pretty good at it by now.


    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: What everyone in the industry knows already...

      80 odd watts is just silly.

      Under 2mA at 5V used 24/7 will consume that, and some equipment does, so such figures aren't necessarily unreasonable.

      What's really silly is people believing 80 watts per year is a large figure or significant in the scheme of what we otherwise use. The propagandists have got it into the public's head it is when it is not.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: What everyone in the industry knows already...

        Watts per year? How does how long the device is in use for affect its power consumption in the slightest?

      2. peter_dtm

        Re: What everyone in the industry knows already... @Jason B

        Under 2mA at 5V used 24/7 will consume 87.6 watts in ONE YEAR or put another way leave it on for one hour and it will use a whopping 10mWHr or 0.0001kWH which your lecky meter can't even indicate.

        the implications of the report are that standby kit is consuming 80 watts continuously ie 80 x 24 x 365 watt hours per year. A very different figure. As you note the greenwash propaganda machine in full ludicrous cry !

      3. horsham_sparky

        Re: What everyone in the industry knows already...

        Where did you learn maths?

        5V@2mA = 5V *0.002A = 10mW

        assuming you meant Watt hours it would take 80 / 0.01 = 8000 hours or just under a year to get to 80Wh.. which would have cost you a grand total of.. *drum roll* 1.2p (15p per kWh)

        p.s. sparky stuff is my day job ;-)

    2. Graham Wilson

      @richard 7 - - Re: What everyone in the industry knows already...

      No disagreement here whatsoever. The point that concerns me is that there is some equipment without a separate mechanical off switch (i.e.: the only off switch is the electronic one). If for no other reason, they should be included for safety.

  15. Adam Trickett

    Waste is waste

    Waste is waste and there is no point in paying for expensive electricity to heat your house when gas is a lot cheaper. However that being said I completely agree, we should target the big things first before we worry about the little things.

    The whole standby vendetta is based on a few old inefficient appliances that used almost as much on standby as they did under full load. Regrettably a few tree-huggers have latched on to this and pushed it into the media and discredited the whole debate on efficiency.

    1. Charles 9

      Diminishing returns.

      Sure, waste is waste, but the funny thing about waste is that attempting to clean up the waste CAN result in even more waste. Just as we inevitably dispense waste byproducts in the course of our daily lives (our bodies won't let us "hold it in"), so to will any form of community end up with some degree of debris. At some point, efforts to reduce this amount will only end up using as much (or even more) stuff than you're putting in, so at some point you have to just step back and say, "You know what? Wasters gonna waste" and just abandon what's left as inevitable.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Double Standards

    I switch on the PS3 for a quick blast of MoH and get moaned at from the wife over its alleged power usage. Maybe she is trying to offset her own usuge with "leaving the shower to warm up" so the the bathroom resembles a sauna, then moves into the bedroom to power up the PC to listen to some Radio 1 (why cant she use the stereo!!) her hair straighteners and hairdrier which could also be used as a military jet engine.

    Moral of the story is long hair blondes may look great but the power usage associated with them are astronomical.

    1. Irongut
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Double Standards

      "Moral of the story is long hair blondes may look great but the power usage associated with them are astronomical."

      Hey I'm a great looking long haired blonde but I never use a hairdrier or any other hair product except shampoo! Admitedly I probably have more balls and less tits than the kind of long haired blonde you're thinking about. ;)

      Paris because she's blonde too and we've met.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Double Standards

        If you "have more balls and less tits than the kind of long haired blonde you're thinking about", you can't possibly be 'a blonde'. You must by definition be 'a blond'.

        If you're going to use words from another language, at least get them right...

      2. A J Stiles

        Re: Double Standards

        So if someone were expecting a date with Paris Hilton and got you instead, would that be a blond bombshell?

  17. Glyn 2

    Each to their own

    I'm happy putting things on standby, turning lights off when I'm not using the, not using plastic bags, recycling and the like. I'm happy with the "Every little helps" school of thought. Same with petrol, trying to make my routes more efficient, drive more conservatively, ride my bike more often.

    It won't save me enough to afford that gold plated ipad, but I'd rather have as much money in my pocket as I can, rather than handing it over willy and indeed nilly to somebody else.

    Mine's the one with the reusable bag in the pocket.

    1. Aaron Em

      Re: Each to their own

      I like how you think spending an hour of your time, whilst saving five pence in your pocket, works out as a net profit for you. You must be a desktop Linux user.

      1. Glyn 2

        Re: Each to their own

        Where did I spend the hour of time? Walking out of a room I turn the lights off, this doesn't take an might take *you* an hour...

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Each to their own

          And riding your bike gets you there quicker, I'm sure.

          1. Glyn 2

            Re: Each to their own

            My bike saves me 30 minutes on my journey, no waiting in traffic.

  18. wowfood

    I remember buying one of those power monitors once. Now I should point out all of my electronic devices are on smart extension cords, circuit breakers, standby monitors etc.

    I turn all my items off (standby really) and I was drawing something like 12w I think, really not much. I turn it on and the power used quickly shoots up to its normal level. After being told to turn everything off at the mains because my step dad is one of the "unplug everything" types I did so.

    When I turned it all back on at the mains and started everything up, the power draw showing up on the monitor was almost double the normal startup draw, and remained that high for several minutes. I worked out that, if I were to unplug everything after using, and then plug it in to use it say, twice daily, i was actually wasting more power than I was leaving it all on standby.

    1. Lamont Cranston
      Thumb Up

      Excellent work.

      I used to go to sleep with the radio on, which would drive my dad up the wall. When I got my own telly, I got a drubbing down for leaving it on standby - not only was this a massive waste of his electricity, but I should have been unplugging it from the wall, too, lest a "lightning strike" cause it to explode.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Excellent work.

        "but I should have been unplugging it from the wall, too, lest a "lightning strike" cause it to explode"

        You know that does actually happen, right? It's what surge protectors are meant to prevent, but unplugging things from the wall when you're not using them is a perfectly valid way to reduce the risk that they'll get fried by a power surge. It's much less common in the U.K. than some places, but I know people in certain places in the U.S. where the power supply is very unstable who absolutely have had thousands of dollars worth of stuff fried by power surges (and smarter people in those places who wouldn't dream of plugging in anything at all valuable unless it's behind a very good surge suppressor or UPS).

        Your dad: not as dumb as you think he is.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Excellent work.

          What's really bad is when you have five UPSes from three manufacturers and, when plugged into mains, all of them show a 'Ground Fault' or similar indication and refuse to power up.

          1. Oninoshiko

            Re: Excellent work.

            That sounds like you have a ground fault. That's not a UPS error, that's your wiring being wrong. You should have en electrition come and look at it. Preferably not the one who installed it.

        2. Grouchy Bloke

          Re: Excellent work.

          A neighbour of mine witnessed a lightning stike to his home. Whole room lit up.

          Caused 10's of thouisands of damage, surge came in and radiated out through all electrical wires. Including the aerial.

          Goes to show that unplugging the the mains is not enough, you have to completely isolate your telly if you want it to survive lightning.

          Oh, and those surge protectory, not a chance with that sort of power involved!

          1. AdamWill

            Re: Excellent work.

            True, I kinda messed up on that one. Surge protectors are for other types of surges, as you say, there isn't one built that can isolate you from a direct lightning strike.

            1. Aaron Em

              Re: Excellent work.

              Sure there is! Quite cheap too -- all you need is a large air gap.

  19. Dave 62

    I can't make much sense of the boot note, should that be "*The paragraph quoted above does not refer to ceiling lights powered from 5A lighting circuits, but ones plugged into the wall: although these often use transformers too - for instance for low-voltage ceiling spotlights"

    1. The Axe

      Might help to look at the linked to article which has a picture with the caption "Figure 22.1. An awful AC lamp-adaptor from IKEA – the adaptor uses nearly 10 W even when the lamp is switched off!"

  20. system11

    I actually do switch things off

    I'm one of those people who flicks the switches at the wall on a lot of things that don't need to be running all the time, something on stand-by uses more than something that is switched off, and that's all there is to it. My main driver is fire safety though rather than people wringing their hands and telling me to save the world.

    I'd like to know the numbers for pointlessly plugged in chargers/etc as opposed to TVs which really don't use very much. Some of them get quite warm with no load whatsoever (same for any similar type of power pack) - where there's heat there's wasted energy.

    Of course this is all undermined by the 2 kilowatt heater that sits in the garage running 24/7. Oops.

    1. Cosmo

      Re: I actually do switch things off

      Growing a bit of 'erb are we? :-p

      1. Aaron Em
        Thumb Up

        Re: I actually do switch things off

        "Fire safety", of course.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Aldous

      Re: Diversion tactic?

      When they ban advertising hoardings from being lit with MH/sodium/halogen lamps i might start listening

      funny how being green doesn't apply to advertising tat, or do they buy carbon indulgences ..... i mean credits?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Diversion tactic?


        Thank you! I was wondering if I'd get through all 120-odd comments before someone pointed at that elephant in the room.

        As a very rough guesstimate, I'd say that if the arty floodlighting was switched off at every town hall/civic centre/public building, each town could save a lot more leccy than if every stand-by device in the town was always switch off at the wall.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Diversion tactic?

      "Is this simply not a diversion tactic to fool consumers...?"

      No. You could try adding some facts to your argument before posting. Like the commissioning of Staythorpe C, Grain, Langage, Severn, and Marchwood CCGT in the past couple of years, collectively rated at 6.8 GW of new capacity? Currently under construction includes West Burton (1.3 GW), Pembroke (2 GW) and there's a number of other plants building, consented or in the planning stage, several of which have been delayed simply because there isn't the electricity demand for them, including big CCGT proposals at Thorpe Marsh, WIlington C, Drakelow, Carrington. There's more, but I think that illustrates my point.

      We've spent billions on these new assets, plus more on upgrading, extendings and cleaning up older assets, and billions more on government-mandated boondoggles like windpower. Ongoing closures partly of purely life expired assets, but also under the aegis of the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive are taking out the older and less efficient plant without greatly impacting the resilience of the grid, which remains as dependable/vulnerable as it always has been. It tends to be grid resilience not the balance of supply and demand that is the limiting factor, as an examination of famous power failures will evidence.

      Should demand miraculously spring back to pre-recession heights I'd accept that we'd have limited reserve capacities at first, but DECC and NII are in the process of extending the operating lives of the UK nuclear fleet, and there's quite a few plants currently mothballed all over the country that could come back on line in days, plus you could have accelerated build out of consented schemes.

      As for "banning tumble dryers"... well, how about government and industry supply the power I want when I want it, instead of trying to play god? My tumble dryer is an efficient condensor model, all the heat stays in the thermal envelope of the house, and I don't need some twit to tell me it costs money to run.

  22. Aldous

    You forgot breeding

    "Whenever an eco-activist starts going on about gadgets or electricity or food, ignore them. The big stuff is travel, making and having things (ie buildings, furniture, tools, interior decor, infrastructure etc) and heating/cooling (a large amount of this is laundry and personal hygiene)."

    my partner and i have decided not to have children, thereby limiting the amount of co2/waste/what ever that v2.0 would of used. yet i get called "selfish" and accused of being a planet killer because i refuse to buy green things (because a new green tv is so much more efficient then sticking with an old one that works fine, no sunk in carbon in manufacture nope) and plan on buying a car that does 15-20 mpg(a 1990's era car at that, so again no sunk carbon in making new). Not to mention horror of horrors closing the curtains in my office room and using a light bulb (not much light from outside+ fully visible to street)

    the point? the people calling me this often had 2+ children (more usually 3) that they each then kit out with the latest consumer crap/fashion(which changes every 6 months) and cart around in such wonderfully environmental cars as prius and MPV. We are probably more green then most "greenie" couples (no kids) due to not buying the latest whizz bang and buying things we like not what is new (i have some 15 year old clothes i wear with brand new for example)

    With the world already overcrowded is it not the "think of the children" brigade with there spawn making the situation worse? after all if they have more then 2 children they are increasing the strain on the precious globe. nah its gadgets, Jeremy Clarkson and not enough windmills

    Fun things to do at a middle class dinner party:

    1) bring up the above,

    2) mention how organic food (which your host/ess will almost certainly go on about as if it was made from gold) can feed 4 billion people, wait until they go "so what" before telling them the population of earth is around 7 billionish

    1. umacf24

      3) Pensions

      What? No children? So WE'RE going through teenage hell and gadget/holiday/school-fee poverty to raise the citizens of tomorrow, so their economic activity will pay for YOUR retirement!

      1. Aaron Em

        Re: 3) Pensions

        Sure. Meanwhile, we, selfish assholes we are, cover for you at work when the principal calls and asks if you can come pick up little Johnny because he wouldn't stop trying to stick his hands up Sally's jumper, or whatever the hell goes on. In the end it all works out.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Aaron Em

        Re: You forgot breeding

        The Electron: You should've followed up by offering to heat his wife up for him. Bet he would've turned plenty green then!

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: You forgot breeding

      A while ago (must be several years ago) there was an article in New Scientist about being green. The author/interviewer was asking the expert about the various things people do to be green. At the end of the article, the author asked: "What is the one thing people can do which would have the biggest impact..." The experts reply: "Don't have children"

      I'm doing my bit to be green !

    4. Charles 9

      Re: You forgot breeding

      "2) mention how organic food (which your host/ess will almost certainly go on about as if it was made from gold) can feed 4 billion people, wait until they go "so what" before telling them the population of earth is around 7 billionish"

      And if they blink at you and go, "Yeah, so? Too many people on the planet, then. We need fewer of them."

      1. Aaron Em

        Re: You forgot breeding

        "Okay, then -- let's start the slaughter with you."

        Won't make you a lot of friends, but I've found it effective in shutting down petty Malthusians when the necessity presents itself.

  23. MrPatrick


    Surely the whole point of these studies is to highlight waste. We all don't want our lifestyles to change, so the idea is to make the small changes to allow things to largely carry on in the way that we currently enjoy.

    To do this we need to introduce efficiencies and reductions where we can, with out having to regress to a lifestyle reminiscent of the 1950's.

    All I see in Lewis Pages articles are stories highlighting some research or recommendation that he rubbishes as not being worth the effort and frankly all it does is make him look short sighted.

    What is at issue in this particular article is aggregate wastage.

    Wastage. What is your TV/Satellite Box/Media Centre/PS3/xbox/laptop actually doing in standby. Absolutely nothing.

    How much electricity is it using to do absolutely nothing. A little bit (a tiny bit even).

    What benefit do you get. slightly speedier start up? Not having to walk across the room and power it on manually?

    And at what cost.

    Well - lets assume that each person in the UK wastes just 2kWh a year (I would probably suggest its more than this but lets go low so it doesn't sound like I'm trying to overstate my point).

    Across every person in the UK.

    Thats 120GWh. Which isn't a huge amount of energy. But lets have a quick glance at Lewis's other articles. Lets see:

    The main thrust of which is all "Its not worth the effort to make any changes because the benefit is so tiny'

    Well - I put it to you. These changes, not wasting milk, not wasting water and reducing the amount of meat we eat* are all tiny but they aggregate over a nation of 60 million (or a world populace of ~7billion) to become significant savings.

    Lewis Page is taking numbers, taking tiny bites and arguing each tiny point down and refusing to accept that there is a larger potential for efficiency and saving that needs to be considered. He is doing this to support his own short sighted ideology of profits before sustainability.

    Why he chooses this destructive selfish approach I can't say, I just wish he wouldn't.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Surely

      The point is that 120GWh is around 0.013% of the total UK energy consumption. If the goal is to reduce CO2 output by 20% (say), we'll need 1,500 such initiatives to achieve our goal. I don't think Lewis is saying we should leave everything switched on unnecessarily, just that if a significant reduction in CO2 is your goal, it's not going to be achieved by lots of trivial measures.

      Or, as Prof MacKay puts it: "if we all do a little, then we'll achieve a little".

    2. Aaron Em

      Re: Surely

      You do realize our Mr. Page is in favor of nuclear, right? Disregarding ignorant notions about nuclear being made out of Satan, it doesn't get more sustainable for that. Nuclear for baseload, plenty of spare power to crack water for hydrogen fuel to use in cars, and we can keep our current lifestyle going approximately forever -- whether that's a good thing being, of course, a different question altogether, but not one which has any bearing on whether nuclear makes more sense than wind and hamsters.

  24. Roger Mew

    Turn off not on standby, REALLY

    Hi all, We had the lowest lamp consumption for many years using 2D stuff, now, slowly, we are going to LED, 12 volt from battery eventually, now the joke, it is not economically feasible to put switches in!!for 1 lamp it will take between 20 and 30 years to return the cost of electricity saved by turning off.

    Computers, when on but not actually working ie the CPU is just sitting and the LED screen goes back the consumption is about 20W.

    Oh yes what was I, had my own electrical business, taught, was EE for amongst others USAF.

    silly gits who say turn off are VERY stupid as the surges cause serious problems, our machines are on UPS, we have mainly O/P central heating and our bills are some of the lowest around. A bread machine on its own cost more than a nightsorage radiator, it went in the bin.

    So if someone says "Oh yes I unplug every nite" get them to show you their LED lamps, they cost about £15 each, have a life of about 100 years and running cost for 60w equivalent of between 1 and 3 w. Our old 2D's are/were about 16w.

    1. The Axe

      LEDs do NOT last 100 years

      LEDs do not have a life of 100 years. There life is only ten at best. LEDs get dimmer as they are used.

  25. Fuzz

    cordless phone

    I went through all the devices in my house I leave on and the only one that consumed a slightly significant amount of power was the DECT cordless phone base. It has a power supply that contains a transformer so that must be consuming a bit. I seem to remember it being as much as 20W for the whole thing which is a lot for a device I use at most once a week to speak to my mother.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cordless phone

      I believe the sole purpose of at least 230% of the countries landline phones are used to speak to the owner's mother.

      We had this discussion in the house the other night in fact - it used to be "a telephone line with broadband access". Now it should really be described as "a broadband line with free telephone access"

      For a good while now, every phone call I receive on the landline gets the immediate response "I'll call you back on my mobile"

    2. David Pollard

      Re: cordless phone + router

      Plusnet recommend leaving the router switched on 24/7 in order to maximise transmission speeds. Power consumption of a wireless modem/router adds another 20W.

  26. Paul Anderson
    Thumb Up

    Devil's in the Detail

    This is a very interesting article - good work Reg!

    I think the devil really is in the detail when looking at corporate and domestic power consumption. There really is a strong tendency for QUANGOs and so on to over simplify the data in order to produce reports and send a clear message to consumers. The trouble is, doing this is unscientific and produces very inaccurate figures, which are then rubbished and this gives the climate sceptics more excuses not to change.

    This article really does help put different types of power use in perspective.

  27. Jamie Kitson


    > tax-free quango

    And what is one of them when it's at home?

    > separate "Modems" and "Routers" - almost all of which were most likely combination boxes

    I don't think you can assume this, Virgin sent me a separate modem and router not too long ago.

  28. Steve 34


    "No they shouldn't: they should be thrown in the bin"

    Recycled, Mr. Page. Tsk, tsk!

  29. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Electric heating cheaper than gas?

    Only if you use resistance elements.

    Heat pumps supply about 4kW of heating for every 1kW of electricity used - effectively making the electricity 1/4 the price and significantly undercutting gas or heating oil as heat sources.

    (heatpumps can be used to provide hot water and hot water central heating, not just to blow hot/cold air)

    Of course I'd probably use heating oil/red diesel if I was in the countryside, simply because power supplies get unreliable in winter.

    1. The Axe

      Heat pumps aren't that efficient

      Heat pumps only work at the 4:1 ratio if they are fully specced out with the best quality materials and even then only on a good day. Look at some real figures and most systems which are installed in real situations will struggle to reach 3:1. Ground source are better than air source, but you either need a huge garden or a veeeeeeery deep pipe.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Heat pumps aren't that efficient

        Hell, 3;1 is still 3:1, a sore sight better than even money resistance heating. And in addition, some heat pumps can reverse, meaning they can cool as well as heat depending on the time of year. Less equipment to buy.

        1. JeffyPooh

          Re: Heat pumps aren't that efficient

          If they also provide cooling in the summer, then your energy consumption may increased (if you previously didn't have air conditioning - common around here). Worst case: your total energy consumption might increase. Although you'd be more comfortable.

  30. Schultz

    3-4 am Standby

    At 3-4 am, my alarm-clock is in standby getting ready to wake me up at the agreed-upon hour. The telephone and notebook chargers are standing by to recharge the corresponding devices.

    Good thing there are some scientists figuring those things out. Not!.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feed in tariffs are a stealth tax on everyone else - when someone shows you their nice new solar (or other ) renewable installation - remember YOU are paying for it.

    1. PowerSurge


      > Feed in tariffs are a stealth tax on everyone else - when someone shows you their

      > nice new solar (or other ) renewable installation - remember YOU are paying for it.

      Best get one for youself then

      1. Aaron Em

        Must be nice

        having ten thousand bucks to screw around with!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: FIT

        "Best get one for youself then"

        What's the lifespan of a Solar PV array these days? Is it longer than the payback time?

        (bearing in mind the associated "gubbins" that might not have such a long lifespan as the array itself)

        ISTR that those crappy little wind generators B&Q used to sell for about a grand had a lifespan of approximately half the expected payback time.

  32. John A Blackley

    Missing the point?

    In this brave new world of the 21st century with all of its history of innovation we occupants of this septic isle can only afford to turn on the heating in the dead of night and must worry about what our electric razor charger is going to do to our leccy bill.

    Are we missing the bigger picture here?

  33. scatter

    Standby is most definitely significant...

    ...and something can be done about it. so it's very good that this report is highlighting it. Some of the responsibility falls on the person operating the equipment but most of it falls on the equipment manufacturers. I don't see what's outrageous about an organisation such as the energy saving trust promoting action on this matter.

    And after consistent pressure at a European level via the Energy Using Product Directive the manufacturers of many product sectors have made great strides in reducing standby. Lewis notes that modern TVs have very low standby consumption which is absolutely correct but he needs to remember that not everyone has modern TVs. In fact the old ones are no doubt happily sitting in bedrooms or kitchens in standby ticking away.

    47W or more of standby is very achievable. I just tested the kit in the corner of my living room (TV, Virgin box, cable modem and wifi router) and it came to 20W. And that's just three things, all of which can be switched off when not in use and by switching them off I'm getting a very welcome saving of about £15 per year on my electricity bill. I can easily see that a small family with multiple TVs, computers and assorted other devices could have standby consumption well in excess of 47W.

    I find it strange that Lewis disses actual monitored data that takes our understanding of household electricity consumption much further on but holds up McKay's work as being correct when McKay was working with the much more limited data that existed back then leading him to underestimate the impact of standby. OK it's a small sample size but then I imagine monitoring every electricity using device in a house can't be cheap.

    Yet again Lewis confirms my general rule of thumb that if he gets in a tizzy about something he doesn't like then it usually has merit, while if he promotes something as The Solution it usually doesn't.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Standby is most definitely significant...

      "...and something can be done about it. so it's very good that this report is highlighting it. Some of the responsibility falls on the person operating the equipment but most of it falls on the equipment manufacturers. I don't see what's outrageous about an organisation such as the energy saving trust promoting action on this matter."

      Even if that's true, it's in no-one's interest to try and 'highlight' the issue with bad science. It does no-one any favours.

      "47W or more of standby is very achievable. I just tested the kit in the corner of my living room (TV, Virgin box, cable modem and wifi router) and it came to 20W."

      That's anecdata, i.e. not worth bothering with. It may well be 'achievable', but if you read the article, it demonstrates pretty conclusively that the way the EST reached that figure is completely invalid and not at all supported by the data.

      "I find it strange that Lewis disses actual monitored data that takes our understanding of household electricity consumption much further"

      Well, he didn't. He mostly accepted the measured data - with qualifications, citing cases where it seems very unlikely that it's really accurate. The main thrust of this article is pointing out that the report draws invalid conclusions from that data. It's the _report_ that disrespects the monitored data, not this article.

      1. scatter

        Re: Standby is most definitely significant...

        In what way has he demonstrated that it's bad science or that the standby conclusion is incorrect? Lewis has pointed out some inconsistencies but that's hardly surprising in a 600 page report that deals with many millions of data points and consequentially a need to resort to software to pick through this data. But to suggest that this invalidates the standby findings is plainly incorrect but typical of his agenda-driven reportage.

        Naturally the figures I gave were anecdotal but of course we have the real data in our hands, so let's take a look at the main report and compare it with my 'anecdata'. Sky box consumption varies between 15W and 20W over a 24 hr period so let's call standby 15W. The average router was 6.3W, LCD TVs are a couple of watts on average, which already brings us to over 20W and half way to the 47W figure.

        I find it bizarre that there is such denial of this real data. Standby is an issue, however much people want to wish it away. Some of it is being dealt with (TVs are a prime example) but it will take quite a while for the impacts to filter through. Other product types have most definitely not been dealt with and legislation should be brought to bear on manufacturers who are foisting shoddy products that cost us a lot of money each year.

        The same goes for in use consumption which is of course much bigger than standby consumption. But to suggest, as Lewis does, that we should ignore standby because other issues are bigger (and he does this all the time) is plainly nonsense. It's an easy, highly cost effective win and we'll need these simple and small wins every bit as much as the big wins.

        1. AdamWill

          Re: Standby is most definitely significant...

          "In what way has he demonstrated that it's bad science or that the standby conclusion is incorrect?"

          Bottom of page 1, top of page 2. ""Modems" in the study were "on standby" drawing 10 watts no less than 79 per cent of the time they were monitored. "Speakers" spent 32 per cent of their time on standby. Etc, etc." How can that data be used?

          Hell, there's one right there in your figures: "The average router was 6.3W". When is the average router 'on standby'? I don't recall ever seeing a router with a 'standby' mode - a 'power' button which doesn't actually fully turn it off, but leaves it in a 'dormant' mode from which it can return to active quickly and possibly via remote control. Are you claiming there are such routers? If not, how exactly can you count the typical power consumption of a router as part of 'the standby problem'? You can say that people shouldn't leave routers turned on all the time (though good luck with that), but that's not the same thing at all as 'the standby problem'.

          (You also rely on Sky boxes to get 15W of your figure; certainly not everyone has such a box).

  34. aelfheld

    Wilful ignorance

    <blockquote>It's plain that the Energy Saving Trust either didn't read the full report, or didn't understand it.</blockquote>

    The latter.

    And that intentionally.

    1. Denier


      80 watts doesn't seem a lot to me.

      I have a 4 or 5 year old sony bravia 46inch TV which uses approx 180w when on and 70w in standby !

      my router uses 15w and that has to be left on 24 hours a day whether you call that standby or not i leave up to you but is isn't in use all the the time that's a dead cert.

      with PVR left in standby at 28w I'm well over 80w already!

      My nice new 60inch Sharp tv uses less than a watt in standby and that is how it should be.

      But without any pressure on the manufacturers over their standby usage it would never have changed.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: 80w

        "I have a 4 or 5 year old sony bravia 46inch TV which uses approx 180w when on and 70w in standby !"


        "My nice new 60inch Sharp tv uses less than a watt in standby and that is how it should be."

        If you're buying a brand new giant TV every four years, that's a much bigger problem than standby power draw. What the hell was so bad about your old TV?

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: 80w

          Why, it wasn't large enough, obviously!

      2. Stephen 10

        Re: 80w

        "I have a 4 or 5 year old sony bravia 46inch TV which uses approx 180w when on and 70w in standby !"

        Really? I have a 40" Bravia of the same vintage and it uses 0.1w on standby. I'd get yours looked at.

  35. hugo tyson

    The War on Standby

    And I thought the article would be about how the MoD keeps things we might need for a war, but as there's no war this is a terrible waste of money. Apparently.

  36. JeffyPooh

    Ahem... Isn't 3:00am the default start time for many activities?

    MS-Windows check for update - doesn't it default to starting at 3:00am?

    PVR downloads the Guide info starting at 3:00am.

    Like most, our dishwasher has a 2,4,6 Hour delayed start. We aim for 3:00am +/- when we press it.

    Downloading podcasts - 3:00am.

    Water softener recharge cycle - programmed to run at 3:00am.

  37. heyrick Silver badge

    Perhaps a better approach would be to look to tackling badly specified consumer kit, such as the set top boxes that keep full operation even when "in standby" purely in order to keep the EPG up to date...

  38. AdamWill


    it's an article by lewis page which is actually sensible and fully supported. miracles will never cease! congratulations, makes its case clearly and convincingly and doesn't over-reach: a textbook case of terrible, terrible data analysis.

    What it looks like to me, from the aerial and other examples, is that the software in the study was set simply to assume that any power draw under a certain threshold was 'standby' - say, under 5W. So it winds up thinking that low-draw devices - like signal boosters - are always either 'off' (when they're actually doing nothing) or 'standby' (when they're on), never 'on'. So their 'on' power draw gets categorized as 'standby', incorrectly inflating the standby figures.

    Then, of course, the EST analyzed the raw data in ways which it doesn't at all support, as well described in the article.

    see, lewis? It's not so hard, is it...

  39. Infernoz Bronze badge

    BS economy, the comments are more interesting

    Where's the proof it matters, does a few Wh hours standby per device really matter when the base load of a house is say 150Wh; the energy and cost saving argument is a joke.

    All this guilt-tripping, eco-saving, PC BS make (fake) work often causes more waste e.g. most recycling actually wastes more time, money and energy than just land filling the waste and using virgin materials.

    A better idea is look at the total power consumption of a home, and only look for significant and economical savings e.g. all LED lights instead of filament lights may save up to 1KWh, LED rather than fluorescent backlit LCD TVs and Monitors could save several Wh each, and any other equipment which requires less total power for a task, like smaller ovens; but only if any extra cost can be recovered from the expected lifespan and energy cost savings, or other benefits; otherwise it is just a foolish waste of time and money.

    Ceres Powers' CHP demo looks interesting; however it not available yet, in-part due to fuel cell corrosion issues and production engineering time, so we'll have to see what the final capabilities and total costs will be; however it definitely sounds more practical than mains feed Solar Panels.

    For bulk power generation I'd like to know when will we see Thorium salt fission reactor electricity generation in the UK, given Uranium reactor designs look like they are hamstrung for political, military, and corporate reasons, so we end up with lot of poorly utilised hot radioactive waste; now that's waste which would be worth recycling and using properly, so it doesn't come back as fallout when any rod cooling ponds boil dry.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: BS economy, the comments are more interesting

      You'll find it's not watt-hours but watt-years, which makes the guilt-trip even more silly.

  40. peter_dtm

    what on earth ?

    It is a rubbish report - faux green science at its best !

    11 (count them) 11 houses surveyed - oh what a statistically significant sample size that is !

    The actual measurements -- oh dear; total fail. With such a stupidly small sample size why didn't they data log the power use of each and every device ? Well; I would guess; because they knew what the result was meant to be; so why risk doing the research properly; which may then disprove their theory ?

    Come on; to do this job properly

    1) Proper significance sample size ( a few THOUSAND households randomly spread across the population)

    2) data log EVERY device in the house (ok; it *may* be ok to log the lighting circuits instead of individual lights)

    3) Report the


    -- maximum consumption

    -- minimum consumption

    -- average and standard deviation (just for starters)

    for each data log show

    -- max draw

    other power levels drawn (or if a variable power draw; average and standard deviations)

    -- min draw ( and trouble your arse enough to actually find out if the device actually *has* a standby mode)

    -- positive identification of an 'OFF' state - eg my gas boiler has at least three electrical states; off (never) waiting for heat demand and supplying heat demand ( which then also has different states - pre ignition purge; ignition & flame establish cycle; normal burn cycle).

    Only when ALL that information is available can you start making any statements about the merits of 'turn it off'.

    Lewis has it bang to rights - rubbish psuedo post modern science at its very best; answer required tells the 'researcher' what questions to ask; and what data to collect; where as proper science asks a question which generates the data required and the sample size and then derives a result - which is an UNKNOWN not a preconceived political point.

    And of course the turn it off comparison needs to be done TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the life cycle damage done to any kit with a thermal cycle of the on/off off/on transitions; AND also the on/off off/on electrical surge damage.

    Minimum information needed to make RATIONAL decisions about whether to turn off at the mains :

    Stand-by power consumption (absolute AND as % of full consumption)

    Life cycle estimated damage caused by power cycling

    Estimated surge cost at turn on (eg an old crt monitor will draw 10 plus amps when turned on; but only use 1 amp (or less if screen is 'black') when running. Rating plates are good for that as they normally show the MAXIMUM anticipated load; not the continuous load.

    Mind you; getting systems to draw minimal current when on stand-by is a good thing and worth pressurising the manufacturers to do - PROVIDED that it doesn't push up the component count and/or cost (either in ££ or in energy required to make the thing/dispose of it at end of life).

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Older Apple iMacs

    Looks like no-one in the study has one because mine draws 60 watts on "idle"

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Older Apple iMacs

      @Philip Clarke

      I think you misunderstand "standby" Apple has the numbers for a newer iMac here:

      Standby is < 0.5W; Sleep is < 1.5W; Idle is 85W with the display on, or 35W with the display off.

      Maximum continuous power use is ~205W.

      If you want to save power, use the Apple menu put the iMac into Sleep mode when it is not actually working - Or you can use the shortcut keys for Sleep - [Control]+[Eject] followed by the [S] key.

  42. stsr505089

    Must be doing something right.

    \My household base load is around 22 watts. Router,Server (hacked NAS box) and VOIP box making up most of that. I need to raid my daughters bedroom to achieve that, to make sure her laptop isn't left running and her hair curlers/straighteners are un-plugged. The satellite box and DVD/HDD box take as much again on standby. The satellite box makes little odds if it on standby or turned on, it still uses around 13 watts.

    1. RonWheeler

      Re: Must be doing something right.

      Surprisingly low.

      No fridge/ fridge freezer then?

      Boiler? (controller needs leccy)

    2. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: Must be doing something right.

      If your daughter's hair straighteners are left plugged in overnight that's not just a power drain, it's a fire hazard.

  43. The Mighty Spang

    Onkyo amp = 72Watts on standby

    if you turn on the network features. cant be arsed to look at the model number, but it cost about £900 2 years ago. i assume most if not all of the same make with the same features will do the same.

  44. dannymot

    This is all very silly.

    A trust I have never heard of producing a report I have never heard of on one side. Idiots trying to claim everyone who switches off appliances rather than leaving them on standby then leaves electric showers on unused. Equally poor proof on both sides.

    There is nothing wrong with a general message of; switch off what you can when you can, try not to use high energy use products longer than necessary, and choose low energy versions of products when shopping for electrical goods.

    No tree hugging, reports, or adolescent level retorts necessary.

  45. Seret

    Case of ideology over experience here

    Lewis has made himself look even sillier than usual on this one. A few minutes going around the house taking some measurements would have shown him that the 47W figure is very easy to achieve (and so is the higher one).

    Computers at 8W, boilers at 10W, lots of little transformers and power supplies, routers, things with clocks on the front, hell my toaster even sucks 4W for god's sake. There are tons of things in your house quietly drawing power, and they all add up. Lewis tries quite hard to dispute even the 47W figure, but anyone that's actually taken some measurements knows he's barking up the wrong tree.

    1. Aaron Em

      Your *toaster*?

      Could it be partly also a question of not buying crap appliances? I mean, if everything you own has a fiddly little LCD clock on the front, I agree there's a problem, but...

  46. Nate Amsden

    my tv turns on by itself

    my tv at home (47" phillips lcd from 2006) has a tendency to turn itself on by itself without turning the lcd panel on. Sometimes I go to turn it on and the lcd lights up in a matter of 2 seconds,when normally it takes 7 seconds. Also I can hear it click sometimes when it is off, acting like it is going to turn on but the lcd stays off. Very strange.. All of my stuff is hooked to a sine wave UPS. I don't care about standby power myself. Though I was not aware how ineffective the practice is of turning shit off at the wall.

  47. IGnatius T Foobar
    Thumb Down


    I'll bet their software which "proves" that devices on standby suck down tons of juice was written by the same people who wrote Al Gore's famous software that produces a hockey stick regardless of what numbers were fed into it. Damn buncha Gaia-chauvinists.

  48. bep

    Yeah well

    Here in often-warm Australia I find that turning off surplus-at-the-moment electrical gear makes the house noticably cooler in summer. In winter it acts as additional heating, of course, but the winter is much shorter.

    In the mean time all my computer kit goes to two power points on the wall which I switch off when not using the computer. Pretty simple to do, saves electricity and me money. Works for me. I've never seen any 'green' advice about home energy saving that didn't say the number one way to save energy was to take shorter showers. The advice always is that behaviour change is necessary, and that behaviour change can be hard to achieve. So that's a straw man to me. But I have to save special derision for those saying plastic carrier bags aren't a problem. They are a pain in the arse and pollute plenty of otherwise beautiful places all over the world.


    Bad Lewis

    I usually have a lot of time for Lewis, but this article I have to disapprove of.

    Yes, some things - especially new TVs, phone chargers and lighting - are disproportionately hyped.

    However, the overall sentiment is that consumers should be aware of how much power they are using. Much effort and money has been poured in to getting people to think about these issues; articles such as this one are only undoing that beneficial hard work. We do not want this, as it will result in the general public getting the impression that being responsible about energy consumption is not important.

    Through the use of a plug-in power meter I determined that some things unused or on standby in my (modest, 2-adult) household were using quite a bit of electricity. I saved *£200 per year* by turning suitable things off at the socket. This doesn't include things I need to be left on like the router.

  50. Anonymous Coward 15

    I always thought the standby power issue

    was about CRTs. Someone's digging over old ground.

  51. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Why are we panicking about saving energy?

    In 1900 the most power an average man would handle would be riding a horse. 1hp. About 750 watts.

    In 1950 an average man might drive a Morris 1000. About 30hp/ 22.5Kw. And his house might use another 5Kw.

    Today we might use 75Kw for travelling, and maybe 20-30Kw tops for a house.

    Can you see where we are going with this? Julian Simon's Cornucopia theory pointed out that EVERY generation has a bigger and better lifestyle than its predecessor - in every way. We have increased our energy usage about 100 times in a century, and I see no reason why we should not do this again over the next. There is no limit to human ingenuity and accomplishment.

    In comparison, environmentalists believe that there IS a limit to these things, and that it was surpassed about 50 years ago. For all times, it was always about 50 years ago. Oddly, they have kept this belief throughout recorded history, even though it has ALWAYS been shown to be dead wrong. Each generation believes that the last generation maxed out the resources of the planet, even while they are increasing them 100-fold.

    We have records of Greek city states 'green activists' complaining that the Earth would be unable to support the growing population of 400BC, when it was about 120 million, and most people existed on a diet of bread, beans, cheese and, if they could catch it, a bit of meat. We now have 6000 million, and we almost all have a better diet.

    We may need to save energy if our distribution system is temporarily unable to cope. But otherwise, the answer is NOT to cut back on our lifestyles, but to generate as much as we need. This is, after all, what we are actually going to do. I am quite confident that, in another 100 years we will look back at an individual use of 100Kw as piddling. And I am also sure that there will be activists trying to return us to the 'good old days' in 2000 when 'everyone lived in harmony with the Earth'...

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Why are we panicking about saving energy?

      "Each generation believes that the last generation maxed out the resources of the planet"

      What the hell are you smoking?

    2. A J Stiles

      Re: Why are we panicking about saving energy?

      We are panicking because at the moment, our maximum generating capacity is slowly and inexorably decreasing. We aren't building any new power stations; the ones we do have are reaching the ends of their operational lives. Those in the corridors of power can get away with this for awhile; but soon, when there are no more inefficient appliances to be replaced with more efficient ones, and the still-increasing population has pushed the demand for energy above today's levels, this is going to bite someone in the backside. (We can't just keep on increasing the amount of juice we import from the Continent, either -- they've got the same problem and sooner or later, they're going to want it all for themselves. There's also the problem that the Folkestone to Sangatte cable is only good for so many amperes.)

      It's similar to why you can't always reduce journey times by finding shortcuts; at some point, you are already taking the shortest route, and there is no shortcut to be found.

      Also, there may be no limit to human ingenuity, but there is a limit to how much energy is being supplied to the Earth by the Sun: about 1 kW per m². And when fossil fuels have run out, that (or actually, less than that) is all there is going to be -- for want of energy to use in the manufacture of sustainable (read: the only kind that will work anymore) generating equipment.

      That should be worth panicking over.

      1. Aaron Em

        You are flat wrong

        -- and thank God for it! If 1kW/m^2 really were "all there is going to be", we'd be looking at Malthusian catastrophe on a scale unprecedented in the history of our species, if not since the Chicxulub impact and the fall of the reptiles. Granted the planet's supply of radioactives is technically finite and therefore not "sustainable" in the sense you probably mean it -- that said, your hubris is showing; with proper reactor designs, we've got more than enough uranium and thorium to generate all the power we'll need for however long we manage to last.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why are we panicking about saving energy? @ AJ Stiles

        "We aren't building any new power stations; the ones we do have are reaching the ends of their operational lives."

        Utter, utter rubbish. About 7 GW of new CCGT were commissioned in the past three years, and there's probably double that in various forms of project development. We've also got around a couple of GW mothballed that could come on line in less than a month. NII are in the process of certifying life extensions for the nuclear fleet, and EDF are undertaking advanced procurement works for their next new one. If things got truly grim we could just apply a derogation to the LCPD and tell the EU to sling their hook, but there's little probability we'd need to. And the chances are that the government's energy market review will make new CCGT more attractive as an investment, and you'll see a rash of new schemes come forward, enabling the closure of the remaining large coal plants.

  52. Sgt_Oddball

    I wonder....

    As a thought did they state in the report that the recording equipment was on a separate unmonitored power supply? Or was this at least accounted for? Could this account for the rather high figure given? Also as with regards to power consumption at 0300 - 0400 what if there was a couple of shiftworker households? They would skew the results somewhat since there would be a chance of them being awake at this time of night..

  53. SgRock

    L. Page Article Questioned in Global Forum

    Dear Lewis Page:

    --I am a poster over at EEVBlog. I posted a link to your article there and have been discussing same. Some of the posters say that there are no down lights on 5A circuits which use use more standby power than a TV. The Link to the thread is: Have a read and send me some links for source material, if you would please, so I can continue to defend the accuracy of your fine article. Or post another article, and let me know. Best Regards

  54. Madboater

    Change the way we live

    As with all Green stuff, it is simply a mater of changing the way we live and think smarter, how many of us for example have a selection of transformers behind the desk/tv/sofa to convert 240V to 12V, why not get a single transformer that we can plug all our 12V appliances into.

    I am sure I saw it on Dragons Den, but have thought about it for some time. Why not power standby using rechargeable batteries that switch a relay on the mains in when you turn your appliance on/off.

    There are really some simple solutions out there, but most rely on the manufactures having a combined effort in sorting them out. But as they don't, consumers don't get the option, until that changes then we are all stuck with what we have.

  55. Paul Garrish

    Try sorting out industrial power usage first

    When I can walk down a street at 10pm and all the closed shops are unlit, then I'll worry about my TV being in standby overnight.

  56. Alastair MacDiarmid

    "for instance for low-voltage ceiling spotlights. In such cases, of course, it is often not feasible to cut power to the transformer without knocking off a breaker or pulling out the light fitting"

    really? really? you clearly have no idea how domestic electricity is switched. There is no low voltage switching, it's all mains, therefore if you switch off a low voltage light you switch off it's transformer.

    Makes me think that perhaps some of the other arguments are a bit fallacious too.

  57. jason 7

    Getting back to showers.

    I've found getting your showering down to 3 minutes makes a big saving.

    3 minutes is actually plenty long enough to wash all the important stuff.

    It is noticeable.

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