British homes add extra £514 million to energy bills by leaving gadgets plugged in

Energy & Efficiency, News

A study of 2,000 adults found most households (86 per cent) are guilty of leaving an average of eight items on standby at any one time – with TVs, microwaves and washing machines being among the biggest offenders.

This is costing an extra £20 a year, or £513,766,000 across all UK households,  which generates more carbon emissions than two million return flights from London to Spain.

Worryingly, four in 10 have no idea that an electrical item continues to draw energy from the mains if it’s not turned off at the socket.

According to Smart PAYG energy experts, Utilita, games consoles are one of the biggest energy drainers with 13 per cent of households claiming to leave theirs on. In fact, one of the latest games consoles costs around £38 a year if left in ‘sleep mode’ which enables the user to voice activate it.

The typical coffee machine racks up £5.60 a year while waiting to be used and the washing machine sets households back by £2.60 a year if left on between washes.

The biggest barrier to switching items off at the mains is poor access to plugs, according to those polled via OnePoll, with 29 per cent saying they would just leave them on, or in standby mode, if they are unable to reach the plug easily.

Energy awareness

It also emerged almost a third (29 per cent) of households admit to leaving items on standby without using them for longer than a year.

Archie Lasseter, head of sustainability at Utilita Energy, which commissioned the research, said: “Even if an item doesn’t appear to be on, if it is plugged in and the socket is switched on, it could still be using energy.

“We call this vampire energy – silently sucking out power without households noticing.

“In recent years millions of households have switched their oven for an airfryer, but those who still have their oven switched on at the wall will spend £2.77 a year to the detriment of the pocket and the planet.

“A simple flick of the switch immediately stops this from happening.”

Ovens and dishwashers complete the five most energy-hungry items households admit to leaving plugged in or on standby, and by turning these items off at the wall, savings of around £20 a year could be made.

Phone chargers, smart speakers and baby monitors were also among the devices households admitted to leaving plugged in.

While half of mobile users say they would charge their mobile all night, despite it only taking a few hours to fully charge.

Vampire energy

Commenting on where the charging costs apply, Utilita’s Archie Lasseter said: “Naturally, we charge our phones while we recharge our bodies during sleep, which is why most mobile phone manufacturers have introduced technology that stops the phone drawing any more energy once it is fully charged.

“However, phone chargers left switched on at the wall will still cost households £1.38 a year, per charger, in vampire energy.”

Exploring household behaviours, the study revealed 61 per cent of people are fully aware of their electrical items using vampire energy, but a fifth say it doesn’t cost enough to warrant the effort of switching it off at the wall.

Nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) of those impacted by the financial downturn claim to have made a conscious effort to try and use less energy.

With 71 per cent claiming to never leave a light on in an empty room with 46 per cent getting frustrated at other household members for not being as energy efficient as they are.

Encouragingly, 46 per cent of those who are reducing their energy usage during peak times via the National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Scheme say they have become more aware of their home’s usage and have learned how much these simple actions can save.

Average Brit’s energy use

TV (x2) – £2.40 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 1.94 (kgCO₂e) – 7.47 (kWh)

Phone charger (x2) – £2.40 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 1.11 (kgCO₂e) – 4.3 (kWh)

Coffee machine (x1) – £5.62 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 4.54 (kgCO₂e) – 17.5 (kWh)

Microwave (x1) – £1.12 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 0.9 (kgCO₂e) – 3.48 (kWh)

Laptop (x1) – £2.69 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 2.17 (kgCO₂e) – 8.38 (kWh)

Washing machine (x1) – £2.59 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 2.09 (kgCO₂e) – 8.06 (kWh)

Electric cooker (x1) – £2.77 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 2.24 (kgCO₂e) – 8.63 (kWh)

Dishwasher (x1) – £1.28 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 1.03 (kgCO₂e) – 3.97 (kWh)

Toaster (x1) – £1.39 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 1.12 (kgCO₂e) – 4.32 (kWh)

Total (x11) – £21.23 (annual standby/vampire energy use cost) – 17.15 (kgCO₂e) – 66.1 (kWh)

Chris Price
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