This article was originally published in the May/June 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1998


First Patch on Leaky Electricity

Last December, after meeting with representatives of the federal Energy Star program, major TV and VCR manufacturers agreed to substantially reduce the energy their new models use when they are off. This energy use, sometimes called standby power or leaking electricity, can be as much as 25 watts. Under the Energy Star guidelines, TVs that consume no more than 3 watts and new VCRs that consume less than 4 watts while off carry the Energy Star logo; machines with the logos are already appearing on store shelves.

Some manufacturers have adopted even more stringent energy-saving goals. For example, Sharp Electronics Company has announced that TVs over 29 inches that it sells in Japan will consume less than 1 watt in standby mode. Moreover, these units will have adjustable brightness so they can also save energy when on.

According to recent research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, TVs and VCRs are the two appliances with the largest aggregate standby losses. But there are still many more appliances that leak electricity. Some of the worst culprits are TV set-top boxes (for cable TV and satellite reception, and video games), compact audio equipment, and computer peripherals. Altogether, leaking electricity represents about 5% of total residential electricity use, or 50 watts per home. Homes with many remote-controlled and rechargeable devices can easily have over 100 watts of leaking electricity.

International efforts are also under way to reduce standby losses for all appliances to 1 watt or less. This can often be accomplished simply by improving the power supply and making small modifications to the circuits. The savings per device rarely exceed 15 watts, but with the increasing number of electronic devices in homes, there are hundreds of megawatts of potential savings.

--Alan Meier




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