Should you turn plugs off at the wall to save?

How much do appliances on standby cost us? Can we save money by turning off plugs at the wall? Look After My Bills investigates.

When it comes to saving energy, there are several myths which do the rounds:

All nonsense. But what about the claim that, when not in use, you should turn plugs off at the wall to save electricity? Well, this one isn’t wholly untrue. Let’s dig a little deeper.

By the way, it’s a stone-cold fact that you should regularly compare energy deals to find the best one for you.

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Should you turn off plugs at the wall?

One question which often comes up when discussing saving energy in the home is this: should you turn plugs off at the wall? In other words, does leaving a plug socket on use electricity?

First off, it’s worth addressing the question of whether an empty socket which is switched on ‘leaks’ electricity. And the answer is a resounding no.

An empty plug socket isn’t using any electricity, because the current doesn’t flow unless there’s a plug completing the circuit and an appliance switched on. So you really don’t have to go round turning every socket to the off position.

But what if something’s plugged in? The issue of whether appliances use electricity when plugged in but turned off is a little bit more complicated. That’s because many electrical items – when you point the remote control at them and turn them off, for instance – aren’t actually turned all the way off.

What happens instead is that they slip into standby mode – not fully turned on but ready and waiting to spring to life when you press the button again. Or perhaps they’re listening for verbal commands, as is the case with Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants.

How much electricity does standby use?

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that appliances left on standby cost the average home £55 a year. This equates to 45kgCO2e in emissions.

Just think about your home. As well as the TV (or probably multiple TV sets), you may well have set-top boxes (such as Freeview) and games consoles, all sat there with just the one light blinking through the night to remind you that they’re still costing you money.

Also, did you know that you can cut the running cost of your TV by changing its settings?

In addition to these, you can include all of those devices – from radios to cookers and microwaves – that have a clock flashing away. They may not be turned on, but the flashing clock shows they’re still drawing power, and a few pence here and there soon builds up across a whole home and over the entire year.

A similar rule applies to chargers for devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. In every case, if the charger is still plugged in but not attached to the device, it’s still drawing some power from the system. The same applies if you plug a phone in to charge and the battery is full in two hours. Leave it plugged in and charging while you sleep through the night and you’ll be paying for electricity that’s literally doing nothing.

Find out other clever ways to lower your mobile phone bill.

How to save energy and save money

So the simple answer is that it saves to turn most devices off at the plug socket, or unplug them altogether. Some, like a set-top box, need to stay in standby to keep downloading data, but in most cases standby is simply a luxury we can manage without.

See our comprehensive list of top energy saving tips.

You know what you shouldn’t manage without? Getting your energy on the cheapest possible tariff. Switch on to Look After My Bills to find the best gas and electricity deals for you.

Want to sort more energy facts from fiction? Check out five energy saving myths here.

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