Get Off The Standby Fence: Gadgets Must Be On Or Off

from the nothing-in-between dept

Lots of folks around the world are concerned about energy issues, and different governments are taking different approaches to the issue. There’s always talk about trying to wean people off of being dependent on certain types of energy, or at least lessening the amount needed. Over in the UK, they’re apparently looking into outlawing the “standby” mode in electronics, complaining that it eats up too much electricity. Instead, people are going to need to turn stuff off. Of course, if those things take a long time to boot up, the opposite is going to occur. Rather than turn off, people will just leave them on constantly — perhaps eating up even more electricity. There are some other interesting proposals that try to convince people to lower their energy consumption — but it remains to be seen whether or not anyone is willing to give up convenience to save on their energy bill.

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Comments on “Get Off The Standby Fence: Gadgets Must Be On Or Off”

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TheMajor says:

Re: Re: Re: Convenience

Really…your momma didn’t think so….

You sound like a cry baby liberal who wants to try to neuter my huge genitals by telling me that I can’t drive my gas hog SUV that I love and that I have to turn off my comptuers if I’m not sitting at my desk. I can afford to waste Energy, so by God I’m going to do it. You sound like a petty, jealous small speck of a person that has try to feel powerful by backing rules and laws that make no sense. Get your daddy’s thing out of your mouth and go get a job you hippy.

Steve (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Why stupidest? If we could get rid of 8% of wasted energy usage we wouldn’t need as many power stations.

I’m not sure you can ‘ban’ standby. A lot of gadgets (e.g. PVRs) have to be on to do their thing, but TVs, DVD players etc should be turned off. Standby mode is generally just a convenience so that people don’t have to get up to turn them on or off. But then again, standby is better than on, energy-wise.

The 1st world is incredibly wasteful generally. Almost everything is disposable. That’s not sustainable.

Mrten says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Why stupidest? If we could get rid of 8% of wasted energy usage we wouldn’t need as many power stations. ”

Please read the article again; it states “8% of domestic energy”. This states ‘domestic energy’ is 30% of ‘total energy’, so that number can be downplayed to around 2%.

It’d be more wise to start saving in bigger areas, like house/water heating (where we spend 85% of domestic energy use).

Steve (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:Stupidest

“Please read the article again; it states “8% of domestic energy””

Point taken. 2% is still a significant amount.

The real point is that we are wasting so much energy. Maybe standby shouldn’t be ‘banned’, but it should be made as efficient as possible. And I hate all these crappy wallwarts that give off more heat than electricity. I turn them off when they are not in use.

claire rand says:

Re: Wow...

eeeee bygum lad. ya need to try stuuf up ‘yorkshire way, byeck when i were a lass we ‘ad to lick roood clean b’fore we wuz a’laid t see b’ttl of lectric.

and we ‘ad t’share that b’tween ‘ole street too.

ya dun’t know ya born.

(no seriously, i mean were still too backwards to understand a date with the month first for gods sake, i think the us should invade ‘to protect the free world’, assume gwb can *find* the uk 😉 )

this is just some dweeb wanting some publicity and allowing people to be seen *doing something* without any actual effect.

I, for one says:

power supply standby

This is sensible and I support it. However I wonder how much proper scientific research has been done about it. I think rather little because some very obvious points have been missed. Switching many devices “off” will still consume a lot of waste electricity.

I remember reading an article in that shining example of bad science, The Guardian, that just pulled a figure of $300 pca/y out of their asses to guestimate the energy wasted by an average household. I did the calculation myself based on actual physics/electronics and a bit of informal fact finding and produced a figure of $30, a whole factor of 10 out from the rubbish put about in the popular media. So I have no faith in the poorly conducted, sloppy pseudo-science often used to back up such studies.

The biggest problem is not the standby button, it’s the switched mode power supply units. In standby most devices drop to a current supply necessary only to keep a CMOS memory active at 5v or 3.3v, and maybe power an LED on the panel to indicate there is still power available. This is typically measured in microamperes, not even milliamps (1/1000 A). It’s basically negligable.

However a switched mode PSU is not as efficient as an old type transformer in the long haul. These power bricks, which are everywhere now, continue to draw a significant current whether they are loaded or not.

Since the “off” switch is usually on the device not the PSU, switching it off is going to do exactly nothing to stop the PSU continuing to waste energy.

I would suggest two much better ways of regulating this problem:

  • Enforce a maximum standby current consumption. If the device cannot go into “standby” within this limit then it must not go into standby at all. It goes off. Simply banning all forms of standby is just stupidly coarse thinking.
  • Change the design requirements for switched mode PSUs. A PSU under no load should stop loading the supply. Better yet – transformers are still a good design. They are bigger, heavier and more expensive to make, but they are more energy efficient.

Lastly I point some blame directly at manufacturers who deliberately make incompatible power connectors. It’s 2006 FFS! Why do I still have 20 different connectors for phones, shavers, toothbrushes, ipod, radio…. each with a different plug, voltage and polarity? Each one of the dozens of stupid wallwart boxes plugged into my wall could be replaced by a simple autosensing DC supply with a universal standard connector. Considering how many of these horrible square bits of black plastic end up in landfill sites I would really welcome an abusive government dictate forcing all electronics manufacturers to adopt a standard power connector or die. And you all know what I think of big government interference…this is a case where a big stick on the asses of the corporations would be a benefit to all, because we all know they do it to be peverse and make extra profit on power supplies, there are no technical or engineering reasons why we need so many different power connectors.

Bluequest (user link) says:

Re: power supply standby

Why do people always miss the major point about the energy crises?

We dream, we wish for a better way and we invent new machines to make our lives better.

Ok……Now what? Go back to the horse and carriage? Why discard our gadgets?

The real point is that obscene greed has prevented us from having energy sources that keep ahead of our need.

Wake up! Look up! Don’t you see that space station in orbit? How about that space shuttle? We manage to have power sources for them, why not for us.

OBSCENE GREED of the energy companies and the corrupt politicians that support then is the problem.

Join the NOPARTY Party, be an independent voter, and vote for honest representatives keep the gadgets on.

AnonCommentator says:

just somethin I heard

I heard somewhere that sometimes leaving a device on or even stanby is better than switching it off and then on because apparently, some things need more energy to startup again then what would be required to keep them running for a certain time period.

I doubt this applies to most simple home electronics…

Max Howell (user link) says:

This is truely stupid. As said people will just leave devices on all the time using more energy. Also how about legislating that all devices must use 20% less energy when “ON”, that will safe so much more power!

Politicians take the easy option always, whatever the current “meme” is. Do they ever consult experts? Do they ever do what is right? FFS I despair.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

China’s catching up to America (if they haven’t already passed us) on energy usage. We should all stop buying things made in China so that we can cut demand to their manufacturing, which would close their factories and cut their energy usage (this would also help to balance our trade deficit with China)…;) I doubt this UK effort would go far, as the electronic’s manufacturers would surely go into a tizzie at the prospect of having to modify all of their products to satisfy such a pointless law… Again, the people in charge need to be educated or fired!

The Man says:

Re: Re: China

Wal-Mart is solving the China energy usage problem and the trade deficit at the same time. They have recently opened a few Wal-Marts in China. What will happen is this; the Chinese people will start buying stuff from Wal-Mart, using it once before it breaks, look on the bottom to see what country makes the piece of crap item, and notice the made in China sticker. They will start buying higher quality items made in other countries, their factories will close and energy will thus be saved.

Simple solution to complex problems.

Barbara Girga says:

Re: Americans are not lazy

I beg to differ with you on the comment that Americans are lazy. I use a car when necessary because stores, etc. are so far away. I also walk and ride a bike when that is feasible. Not ALL americans are lazy, not ALL of anything of anybody applies to everything…that is global thinking and a negative way of speaking and thinking. Back to my bike. And yes, I do use standby, as my electric bill was $450 in June. In using a standby or OFF button on items, July’s bill was $150. Have a good day.

PopeRatzo says:

The last Anonymous Coward stole my thunder. When I started riding my bike the ten miles I travel to work every day, I started putting away the gas money. Then I realized my family could do without one of our cars and I sold it, so now, I can salt away that money and the insurance, upkeep etc that goes with it. I’ve gotten to a point where I’ll be able to retire years earlier because of this simple matter of conservation. Further, the daily bike ride has made me healthier, so chances are I’ll live to enjoy several more of those years of leisure.

Conserving, even a little, pays off.

randolei4.678 says:

Oh 8% of the energy….

For gods sake if you want that 8 % back Ill give my 8 % back. Just stick a freakin 2 square inch solar panel outside.

Of course if everyone ont eh planet hooked up one of these to the power grid it’d be kinda cool.of course cost wise its more cost affective to put a bigger panel outside becuase the invertor would never operate at max effiicency without the larger panel.

A Concerned Brit says:

At least we're coming up with ideas...

…sure so it’s only small percentages saved through this one approach, but taken with other initiatives and ideas, it all starts to add up.

At least we’re thinking about the problem here in the UK rather than just invading other countries to support our oil hungry culture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: At least we're coming up with ideas...

“At least we’re thinking about the problem here in the UK rather than just invading other countries to support our oil hungry culture.”

I’m sorry, I’ve copyrighted all the stupid ideas, sayings, and comments. You’re going to have to find something intelligent to say or start paying me for the right to keep using the stupid comments. Last time I checked, (and forgive me for being a stupid, fat, American if I’m wrong), Great Britain was in Afghanistan and Iraq with us. But no, you’re right, this all got started when every single American sat down together and said “Well, the golf links are crowded this weekend, and there’s nothing good on T.V., so let’s invade a coupla countries for the oil. We got nothing better to do, so let’s go get the shit shot out of our troops and piss everyone off.” Seek help. Surely there is a program that can help you not post stupid comments.

Fred says:

Wall Warts and US v European Attitudes

You can now get mains distribution panels or adapters which shut off power to all attached devices once a designated master device is switched off.

So – switch off the PC and all the horrible little power adaptors for the peripheral devices are shut off too. You can do the same thing with hi-fi, home theatre setups, etc.

Regarding US v European attitudes: once US citizens find themselves paying realistic prices for increasingly scarce energy resources, as they surely will some day, they will find themselves at a severe economic disadvantage to countries which have been addressing the problem for decades.

For example, you can’t put in place conservation measures, insulate buildings, reduce fuel consumption in the national vehicle fleet, replace energy guzzling home appliances with more efficient ones, etc, overnight.

Giving US citizens low tax rates on energy may be politically expedient in the short term, but by encouraging some of the complacent attitudes displayed here, does the country no favours in the long term.

Jebelbryan says:

Re: Wall Warts and US v European Attitudes

—>”Giving US citizens low tax rates on energy may be politically expedient in the short term, but by encouraging some of the complacent attitudes displayed here, does the country no favours in the long term.”

That’s one of my biggest concerns as a current U.S. citizen. Everyday I see short-sighted plans to save a few bucks in the short term, when, if you plan for time periods longer than 4 years, you not only will save more money in the long run, but you also gain the ability to begin shifting to better and more environmentally friendly practices (especially in regards to electricity).

Guy says:

Has anyone thought about enforcement

Alright Power saveing aside for a min How are they going to Enforce it i mean random Searches of peoples house and if they find one orange light on a monitor or computer they haul them away to the energy jail where they sit on a bit and replace the energy they Used when their computer was on Standbuy……. i mean Come on how do you outlaw something like Standby mode? how do you enforce it Whats the Penalty for haveing soemthing in Standby mode? i dout it will ever work but i do like my idea about peo[ple in jails peddling on bikes to make the community they are serveing for their Crimes energy

Geezus says:


First, any type of energy savings is a GOOD thing, so unplug your electronics when not in use, simple as that. Not helping save energy where you can is like saying “I won’t vote because my vote doesn’t count”.

Also, any changes to the standby mode standards already in place will do very little to affect the amount of wasted energy. The real answer is in searching for better forms of energy, like someone mentioned earlier.

PV solar cells are the way to go and they get smaller and better each year…if the goverment had a clue (or cared) they would make them mandatory. Think about it, spend a little money now, get free energy forever, not much of a choice in my opinion.

…but, unfortunately, the big governments and corporations (at this point) do not want the consumer to save money. Rather, they want to sap every last dime from them (as energy prices continually rise). It is a blatant filtering of money from the hard-working populous to the big wigs, who then use that money to remain in control and continue getting money from consumers. Ahhhh, the crux of capitalism… Until a breaking-point occurs, it will remain this way.

The truth is, we could all be very free from the confines of the energy crisis if the people that ran this world had a little more compassion and weren’t swept up in a whirlwind of greed…

Example: With the money that the US has spent recently on ‘defense’ we could have built any number of PV Cell factories that could easily supply entire nations (if not the world) with free energy…

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously..of all the other truly wasteful areas of energy consumption they intend to go after “standby” mode/??? Come on. If even a quarter of the people who use standby mode on gizmos that have it decide to leave their gizmo on all the time they just causes the opposite of what they wanted. That, to me, sounds like a plan developed by someone who has no idea what in the hell they are talking about and thought it sounded good in their own head. There is no way an expert could have come up with something like that.

WirelessGuy says:

I just say ban stupid people from having PCs

Then we wouldn’t have people who make comments on technology they know nothing about, nor care to learn. Other than I, for One the rest of you need to move on to another topic.

The problem is exactly as I mentioned, there is a huge load imbalance between the power company and your house. The issue becomes worse based on more DC devices with heavy loads. Current runs down hill and these tip the scale. The power companies have known about this for about 80 years, but realized that these devices would keep the current demand up, and your bills high even if you are on vacation. So they never did anything about it. To fix it now would undo 80 years of lies, and probably end up in court in THE Class action lawsuit of all times.

So instead now that we are in an energy crunch, blame devices instead and push the blame away from the power companies who created the problem.

William C Bonner (profile) says:

Isn't Standby required to be able to turn on from

The main things I know of that are in standby mode are my TV, My HDTV Tuner, My Stereo, and my DVD Player.

The devices may be designed so that there is a small component that looks for a power on signal, but I’m pretty sure it is essentially in standby mode for each unit.

Then another example of somethign using power whoile it’s just sitting there: My Microwave. Since it’s user interface is purely digital and not mechanical, when it is sitting there and not being accessed it is using some amount of power just to see when I hit a button on the unit. I would think it’s not a huge amount of power, but still it has to be some.

Somebody says:

PCs vs. Electronic Equipment

A PCs standby mode is much different than that of, say, stereo equipment or an LCD monitor. The latter use energy to maintain a “closer-to-fired-up-so-it-turns-on-faster” mode. A PC (windows) standby freezes the current state to hard disk, thus not requiring power to maintain that ready-to-go state.

William C Bonner (profile) says:

Re: PCs vs. Electronic Equipment

PCs generally have two power save modes. One is hibernate, where all data is written to hard drive, and the machine is shut down. The other is standby, where the processor is put in a low poer sleep mode, and the ram is run in refresh only mode, and most other peripherals are powered down. (usb, display, ethernet, etc)

Hibernate takes longer to return from, but requires no power. Standby is fast to return from, but requires power to keep the ram running and pay attention to interfaces that may return it to ON.

Jason Sebring (user link) says:


Britian is trying to tweak a number of things to reduce their energy consumption and to move to alternative sources of energy. This is a good thing. The move to ban standby mode is too drastic however. Intead, why not regulate the acceptable electricity usage of standby mode in classes of consumer electronics to an acceptable level? Standby mode in computers is very valuable in saving the time it takes to start working, which is more productive. Britian needs to be a little more specific in this initiative but they are moving in the right direction.

BillDivX says:


How about tube guitar amps? They all have standby modes, it’s part of the design, critical to not ruining your tubes.

Of course it’s all short sighted. I’ve noticed lately an explosion in the term “instant gratification” My parents generation seems to enjoy slapping that label on my generation, as well as the generation that is now in grades schools. Seems to me, it’s a bit of projection going on…Many of them do it just as bad, if not worse. I.e. banning anything that harms a child, or, *cough* invading countries in reponse to a terror attack, not because it will do anything to eliminate terrorism, but just because it makes us “feel” like we’re doing something about it.

Terry says:

The implications of shutting off power to every device to save energy means that you will not be able to turn devices on with a remote control. The “instant on” feature of most modern consumer electronic devices supports quick turn-on as well as RC activation. You’ll need to press a button or flip a switch in order to turn on TVs, stereos, game controllers, or any thing that uses a remote control for activation at a distance. You will have walk over and manually turn on the telly. The current generation of couch potatoes are not likely to accept this approach.

barefoot says:


Switching off rather than standby DOES save electricity, obviously, but HOW MUCH?

It’s like going on a diet by always leaving one french fry on your plate. Eating one less chip is not really solving the problem.

Outside my house right now I can see hundreds of street lights that are on ALL night. and there’s no one out there!

Switching off half of them would be like taking away half my chips and the burger!

Also, boiling a full kettle for one cup of coffee wastes more electricity than all standby gadgets on for a few days!

I love analogies

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