Please stand by while we destroy the planet

basilfawlty2.jpgWhile we’re on the subjects of the British and television, let us draw attention to an energy review for the British Government which last month took aim at one of those great convenience innovations of the late 20th century: the TV standby mode.

Imagine the scene. You get back from a long hard day (fish and chips in hand, presumably), fix yourself a cup of tea, flop down onto the couch, push the red button on the remote control and…nothing! The British press breathlessly reports that the standby mode faces a complete ban.

This draconian measure would mean actually having to turn on the TV using the button on the box itself. It will no longer be waiting in readiness for the remote control’s command. Admittedly this story might be a little overcooked — in reality the report talks more of tackling the standby issue rather than eliminating the standby mode altogether. Still, it’s not the worst idea.

Does the 40-inch beast really drink that much electricity just by having the little red light on, waiting for you to wave the remote control at it? Well, yes, actually it does. I’ve been through the TV energy consumption information from CNET (link helpfully provided by our blog readers) and the average TV there has a standby mode that consumes 6.5% of the electricity used in full-power mode.

6.5% might not sound like very much, but even in the average US household (where the TV is on for a staggering 8 hours a day) the standby mode is responsible for 13% of the TV’s energy consumption. Come down to a more reasonable (and healthy!) amount of TV viewing — say 90 minutes a day — and your standby mode uses the same amount of energy as your total TV viewing.

That luxury of falling onto the couch and waving the remote control at the TV is an expensive one. Large plasma televisions can draw as much power as a refrigerator. The fish and chips won’t be any the worse for having to turn the box on first. Just remember to turn it off afterwards.

And what about the remaning 90 minutes of TV viewing? I’m pleased to announce that your favorite British comedy classics will soon be both hilarious and carbon free: the Home TerraPass that offsets your home energy’s carbon emissions is just a few weeks away.

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  1. Drew - August 6, 2006

    Standby mode-hmmm, do you know how many tv sets catch fire each year due to standby mode, weather you are home with your kids or not? See America Burning!
    Ever wonder about the heat given off from set top cable boxes, satelite boxes, and the plug in transformers on your cordless phones! These tiny appliances really do not require such huge power supplies, and many new transformers run cooler, oh! but I guess the patents haven’t run out yet on those new ones yet!
    Heat means electrical resistence that you pay for and also compromises insulation purposes in summer. Ever wonder about the heat given off by the low guage power lines from the pole to the house? Im not suggesting that you touch the wire to see if it’s true, but they keep the birds warm now don’t they. That heat is electricity you pay for that you’re not getting and compromises the efficiency of every applieace you own as well as causing cimputer malfunctions due to voltage irregularity! Why don’t you ask your electric company to either increase the gauge of the wire that runs to your home, or discount your bill because of it’s
    insufficientcy? You can probably guess what their answer would be!

  2. Anonymous - August 8, 2006

    The average consumer usually doesn’t have an “off” button for the standby mode on these devices. Thus, this seems to be a manufacturing issue. For those of us that don’t mind walking to the box to turn it on, we could eliminate our standby use. This is not currently an option.

  3. Brandon Galbraith - August 9, 2006

    While I can understand the need to conserver power, eliminating Standby mode isn’t the solution. As time goes on, more and more electronic devices in your house are going to consume power while doing nothing:
    1) VoIP phone/phone adapter
    2) Television
    3) Stereo Equipment
    The solution is to look at reducing the amount of power Standby mode uses to something negligible. This should not be limited to just televisions though. This should encompass any electrical device that sits idle most of the time until some sort of event triggers it’s function.

  4. Geoff - August 9, 2006

    One way to avoid standby power issues is to use a smart power strip (~$30 from Amazon — ). The smart strip has one outlet that is always hot. When the strip detects power being drawn from that outlet, it supplies power to all the other outlets. I use the smart strip with my desktop PC — when the computer is on, my monitor / speakers / KVM switch / USB port / etc all get powered up. When the computer is off, they all shut down, with no standby mode. One could presumably use a similar set up with a home entertainment center, with the stereo / DVD player / etc being tied to the TV’s on/off switch.

    If you want to know how much power your various appliances are using in standby mode, the Kill-a-Watt monitor (also ~$30 from Amazon — ) will show you.

  5. JD Howell - August 9, 2006

    We’ve elected an easy fix for ‘standby mode’. All of our electronics, power supplies, etc., are now on switchable plugstrips that provide not only surge protection and convenience of bulk connection – they also have an off switch, which we use every time something’s utilized.
    Which in our household is probably less frequent than most because we garden, take walks, ride our bikes, go swimming, workout, kayak, read, or practice making children (practice makes perfect, they say). “Get on your bikes and ride” – Freddy Mercury. “See you out there”. – Me…

  6. pradwastes - August 9, 2006

    Before passing such “draconian” legislation there has to be some features that must exist before shutting off the standby. There are still a lot of TVs and VCRs that have standby modes to save the channel settings and clock functions.

    The cost of flash memory is low enough to save these setting in a power failure or the act of unplugging these TVs and VCRs and saving the energy they use.

  7. Clint Slaughter - August 9, 2006

    Besides regular power strips, “smart” power strips are available that completely shut off power to everything plugged in and are activated when the primary device/appliance is turned on.
    Home page for one “smart strip”