May 29, 2009

Vampire power costs

There's a lot of interest in the fact that many electronic devices in our homes are using energy even while they are turned off or not being used. But, how much money do these energy vampires really suck up?

For many people, the standby power used by one device will seem minuscule, but the costs can add up when you take into account just how many things we all have plugged in. What's more, many households, have multiple televisions, computers, cordless phones, and others.

All told, the money wasted by an average U.S. household on standby power each year could easily be used to purchase an iPod Shuffle or in some cases even a Nano.

Below is a list of the annual average costs for many household gadgets that are turned off and plugged in.

Keep in mind that these are just averages, and in some categories there are big differences between most and least efficient products. How much energy each of your devices consumes will depend on both the device itself and your local electricity costs.

We calculated the following averages based on energy use stats from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy using a price of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Home Entertainment

  • CRT TV: $1.00
  • LCD TV: $2.97
  • Plasma TV: $2.97
  • DVD: $1.53
  • VCR: $4.63
  • Digital cable box: $17.65
  • Satellite cable box: $15.50
  • DVR: $36.63
  • Digital cable box with DVR: $43.01
  • Satellite cable box with DVR: $27.52
  • Video game console: $1.00
  • Portable stereo: $1.64
  • AM/FM tuner: $1.11
  • CD player: $4.99

Home Office

  • Desktop computer: $3.96
  • Laptop computer: $8.81
  • LDC monitor: $1.12
  • Printer: $1.98
  • Multifunction printer, scanner, copier: $5.21
  • Computer speakers: $1.98


  • Coffee maker: $1.12
  • Microwave oven: $3.05
  • Cordless phone: $1.98
  • Answering machine: $1.99
  • Power tool: $3.96
  • Handheld vacuum: $2.97
  • Electric toothbrush: $1.98

Costs start adding up when you take into account electronics that may be left on when you're not using them.

Here's a small sampling:

  • Desktop computer: $71.00
  • Video game console: $23.10
  • VCR: $7.69
  • DVD player: $7.46
  • CD player: $8.53
There's little consumers can do about set-top cable, satellite, and DVR/TiVo boxes. Television shows can't be taped if boxes are unplugged and it typically takes a long time to reboot boxes. Since it's not practical to unplug them, the best you can do is remember to turn off the box when you're not actively watching TV.

How about those chargers we hear so much about?

Leaving your cell phone charger plugged in, but unattached to your phone will cost you an extra 26 cents a year. You'll spend more for a laptop charger, around $4.38.

Posted Wed May 27, 2009 10:57am PDT

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and

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