The Hidden Cost of Your Favorite Devices

Buying yourself a new toy is always exciting. Whether you're talking about picking up a new TV, computer or any other neat new gadget, you might want to think about each option's energy consumption patterns before you make a purchasing decision. Thanks to the ENERGY STAR program, it's easier than ever before for consumers to quickly assess how much energy many new electronics will use when turned on, but that's only half the story.

While it’s easy to find out how much energy your new device will use when you're using it, there's an energy savings secret we'd like to let you in on.

Many of our electronics consume energy even when we're NOT using them!

Determining your turned off consumption

Most gadgets today consume energy when not in use due to standby modes and other settings. There are a couple telltale signs that something is using energy when you're not using it.

  • Lights – If your device has lights on it that remain lit when you've turned it off, it's drawing power. Whether it's consuming a lot of power takes a little more investigation.
  • Power bricks – Power bricks on a device's A/C adaptor are a dead giveaway that it is consuming power when not actually in use. Just do the touch test. If the brick is warm to the touch, it has energy flowing to it.

If you want to get a clearer picture of just how much energy your devices are consuming while turned off, for just a few dollars you can pick up a meter, available at most hardware stores, that will give you an accurate reading. These meters stand plug in between your A/C adaptor and the outlet, monitoring the flow of electricity in real time.

Ways to eliminate hidden consumption

If you've found that several of your devices are consuming energy while turned off, there are a few things you can do. The most obvious solution is to unplug your devices. While this ensures they won't be drawing power when you've turned them off, it could be a tedious process.

An alternative that achieves the same results is to invest in power strips. By plugging your devices that exhibit hidden consumption into power strips, you can effectively curb that consumption on all connected devices with one flip of a switch.

Either approach is effective, and the only way to prevent electronics from using energy while turned off.

Instances when it's best to accept hidden usage

Before taking action to stop hidden consumption, it's important to think about whether it's important for your device to have access to power even when you're not explicitly using it. Think about your DVR. If you prevent your DVR from having access to power when you're not watching TV, it won't be able to record any shows you've programmed it to while you're not around. On the flip side, there's no real reason for your DVD player to have access to power when you're not watching a movie.

With minimal effort and a developed plan, you can generate energy savings by reducing hidden consumption on the part of your favorite devices.