Since the early 2000s, government agencies have been trying to address the energy vampires in our homes – those electronic products that continuously suck power out of wall outlets when we think we've turned them off. While government programs have targeted this type of energy waste (mainly on a product-by-product basis), a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that we still have a long way to go to reduce a home's "idle load" power consumption*.
According to the NRDC paper, Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use, the electricity used in the U.S. by these "always-on" products is equivalent to the output of 50 large (500 megawatt) power plants. The NRDC compiled data from over 70,000 homes in Northern California. A detailed audit of 10 homes was performed to identify the specific products responsible for idle power consumption and assess opportunities for energy savings.
Key findings of the study include:
- The average "always-on" power consumption for 70,000 homes in one dataset** was 164 watts, approximately 1,300 kWh annually per home. This represents 23% of the annual electricity consumption across the homes in the study.
- The 10-home detailed audit revealed an average of 65 electrical devices per home (53 plugged in and 12 permanently connected). Two-thirds of these devices consumed more than 1 watt of power in the home's idle state.
- Idle load varied greatly between product models. The idle load of printers ranged from 2 to 26 watts per home and cordless phones from 1 to 12 watts.
- While HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration were the largest active-mode electricity users, they represented only 15% of the total always-on annual electricity consumption. Consumer electronic products accounted for 51%, and miscellaneous products (i.e. fish ponds, aquariums, furnaces, protected outlets in bathroom and kitchens) accounted for 34%.
The paper concludes with a list of actions that manufacturers, agencies, and consumers can take to reduce home idle load power consumption.
To learn more about home idle load and to download a copy of the paper, visit the NRDC website.
*Idle load includes standby, off, and sleep modes
**The study used test data from three separate groups