Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Standby Power

Many appliances consume energy even when they are not in use so that they are able to provide a standby function that makes on-demand use possible, like on your television for example. The energy that is used to maintain this standby function is called standby power. Although some appliances need standby power to maintain a function like an internal clock, most standby power is wasted energy.

While some appliances have a light to show they are using energy, others do not. Things like a mobile phone charger, an electric toothbrush and portable stereos may appear to be off but are in fact still using energy.

It may seem like such a small thing, what difference can a tiny light on a television really make or leaving my charger plugged in and on? The answer is a lot, because these standby lights are on all the time over a year the energy wasted builds up, as does the energy bill. Standby power costs the average Australian home between $50 and $100 a year. For Australia on a whole that means up to $500 million of wasted electricity and 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

That is a lot of money and electricity to be wasted and a huge impact on our environment for something that is not performing any useful function for the majority of the day. Turning appliances off at the wall or unplugging them will vastly reduce the energy being consumed by standby lights. It may also increase the life of your appliances; if you have any concerns about switching an appliance on and off regularly check with an electrician.

In many homes now the power points are well hidden, which can make it difficult to easily switch them off. Why not use an extension cord or power board and move it into a position that is more accessible. This way it can become part of your daily routine as you walk out the door to flick the switch.

TIP from Bill: It is now possible to get power boards with individual switches on each plug, so you can switch things on and off individually when they are being used.

TIP from Julie: It is possible to buy a device that measures the energy used by an appliance when left on standby. This is handy to have because it helps in the argument for the turning off of appliances as it can be proved that there is a usage and a cost which can be calculated on a ‘cost to them in the long term’. It can also help to reduce unnecessary work, by identifying the appliances that use standby power so only those need to be switch off.

Thank you for those tips Bill and Julie, if you have any great ideas about how to make it easy to reduce standby power, please email us so we can add to this space.

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government