25 August, 2009

Stop trying to save the planet by unplugging things...

I enjoy people watching. It's fun! I also have LOTS of pet peeves. And I'm OK with this...

The other day, I was watching a friend cook dinner... maybe a little creepy, but *meh*. When she went to use the toaster, she wasted a full 4 seconds plugging it in... when the toast was done, she unplugged it again (OK, so that only took a second).

I asked her about this activity, and she said she had heard that unused electronics accounted for a substantial amount of annual electricity usage... being a smart guy I immediately thought 'no fucking way,' voicing it friendlier as: "I have a Kill-A-Watt meter that will disprove this annoying 'statistic.' I hear it all the time." Accounts range from 10% to 25% . . . WHO CAME UP WITH THIS?
OK, so to get this started, a coffee pot (electronic controls), off (0Watts):

Next, my Kitchen Aid mixer, off (0W):

My microwave, off (0W):

A tea kettle, off (0W):

The ubiquitous power transformer, with no device attached (0W):

Dell laptop brick, no computer plugged in (0W):

Apple laptop brick, no MacBook plugged in (0W):

24" iMac Core2Duo, off AND in 'sleep' mode (0W for 1 sec, then 5W for 1 sec, cyclical):

One interesting thing to note about the iMac: when on and screen brightness is at the lowest setting, the computer uses 89W. At brightest setting, 120W... and when calculating 10000000000^10000000000 (i.e. processors maxed), 136W.

A music pre-amplifier (with remote on feature), off (0W):

A coffeepot, tea kettle, mixer, microwave, toaster, 2 dell adapters, 1 macbook adapter, cell phone charger, and two additional power adapters, everything off (3W):

So... calculating out .003 + .0025 (for the computer) KW X 24/hours (per day) X 30 days (per month) equals 4 KWH, or at Austin rates, about thirty-six cents per month on the 'ole electricity bill. That's worth it to me to keep things plugged in, and nowhere near 10-25% of my power bill. Not. Even. Close.

So stop wasting your time 'saving the planet' with this busted claim... instead, try recycling metal and glass instead, reducing the time you use your electronics, and in general not being a gluttonous fool. We all try, I guess...

So what about that toaster?

You owe me dinner...

PS I do not own a TV, but will test this, along with an XBox tomorrow (according to wikipedia, modern TVs use <1W in standby ["Every tv I've tested made the Kill-A-Watt read 1 watt -- reddit user 'dickbutt']). And stop eating meat. That seems to be the important thing... and who the fuck unplugs their desktop?

Wikipedia article on "Phantom Load" claims 5-10% annual US consumption is from standby power... can't argue with Wiki :) )

Things to unplug (thanks angry redditers who don't actually unplug these things because they'd lose programming):
DVR (Only 2W difference between on and off)
Desktop Computer (maybe)?


  1. Totally agree. I've Kill-a-watted many things around the house. The 'phantom draw' is in the noise for me.

  2. Your math is off. It's .2 kwh in your example, not two.

    Anyway, I found the same thing with my kill-a-watt. I keep my meter on the power cord for this: halogen desk lamp w/ transformers, Dell XPS m1530, 85-watt PC speakers, and a Floor lamp (with three 14W CFL bulbs). When everything is off, I get a 6.3 watt rating. Substantially more than what you're getting, but again it's all of 4.6 kwh/month.

  3. Oops. I thought you said .3W in your example. My bad. Your math is right.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Lots of thing you didn't test, like a TV on standby, a stereo on standby, a dvd player on standby, a PS3/Xbox on standby, your dvr on standy.

    Do you see a pattern here? So yes, we know lots of things don't use electricity when not in use, but lots of things do. So rather than telling people to unplug there some devices, and not others, we make the message simpler. Ask them to unplug everything.

    Now I know, a bust person like you, those 5 seconds are very important, and will probably cost you millions. But for most people, they can afford to waste a little extra time, since it only means they will have less time to watch tv.

  6. I'm going to have to agree with the previous Anon comment on this one. You tend to be testing all "dumb" devices, as opposed to any kind of device with a standby/sleep function (you tested the laptop in sleep mode but didn't include those 2.5W on average into your 20 cents/month calculation). This site is a pretty interesting quick read: http://altmode.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/power-switches-that-arent/ Basically, anything that can be woken up by a remote is barely going into standby mode at all when you turn it "off" (DVRs especially). Granted, I doubt that power drain accounts for the 25% of the monthly bill that some people claim.

    On the other hand, you are pretty correct that it's pointless to unplug those cell phone chargers, etc. About the only advantage gained by unplugging a toaster is possibly reducing the fire hazard.

    Good day, sir :)

  7. People are retarded. NFI.

  8. I don't know whether to feel atsounded, angered, or insulted by what I just read.

    The fact that you neglected to include any readings of *electronic* devices (as opposed to electric devices with physical switches)is either deceptive or moronic.

    Yes, appliances with switches to determine their functionality will draw next to nothing, as will adaptors (transformers) without a load.

    But anything with a sleep function, or a remote, will draw power.

    Take these stats from this site linked above:
    DVR: On, 40W. Off, 48W.

    Once you post about these devices as well, I'll consider taking you seriously.

  9. About your readings: Put your hand on a wall wart. Is it at all warm? If so, it's using energy, regardless of what your meter is telling you.

  10. To the Anonymous posters that point out the lack of electronic devices in this survey, your point is certainly valid, but I'm not sure if it's relevant to debunking the myth. As a college student, every year ResLife gives us a brochure telling us to unplug our phone charges if we're not using them. The thing never says to unplug TVs, computers, stereos, or other serious electronic devices that tend to live in sleep mode. It only says to unplug the "dumb" devices, and implies that these devices chew up 10-25% of the electric bill for the building.

    So no, it's not comprehensive, but it's certainly relevant. I'd gladly forward this article to the "Green Team" at ResLife. Either they can revise their program to target devices that actually draw power when off, or they can really start helping the environment by not wasting paper on those useless brochures.

  11. You consider yourself a "smart guy" and you didn't measure A PC?!

    According to my KW Meter, I tested my friend's PC and mine in 'sleep -mode'...both sucked up about 17 W!!

    You didn't check any electrical device that uses more power : TV, DVD Players, cable boxes...

    Btw, I found this post because it was on Reddit -- Why? Because your post is total bullshit.

  12. Hey you are on reddit because of your idiocy:


    Also another commentor stated, there is a difference between eletric and eletronic devices

    ELECTRIC devices have a physical switch and threfore draw zero power when off (toaster, everything you tested)

    ELECTRONIC devices (computers, TV, etc.) still draw power when connected and in the off mode.

    I'm sorry you failed physics.

  13. LOL I love that people don't think I tested electronic devices (check the amplifier and computers above). I'm sorry ya'll failed at reading : )

  14. I unplug my computer at night or when I'm away from home. Not for power savings though, but for lightning. Where I live a thunderstorm can appear, take out any electronic devices that are plugged in and disappear in less then 30 minutes. And, lightning protectors don't help.

  15. It's funny that people even talk about sustainability while ignoring the population problem. It doesn't matter how "sustainably" you live your life if the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate (read: increasing at all).

    It's like trying to stop the Titanic from sinking with a bucket. Yes, it's great that you're trying to stop the Titanic from sinking, but you're not making any difference whatsoever. You're just fooling yourself into a healthy conscience. WE HAVE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF THE MASSIVE FUCKING HOLE IN THE SHIP. Refusing to do so is insane and pitiful.

    From now on I will not consider people who only focus on living their own lives "sustainably" as environmentalists. To be an environmentalist you MUST be trying to do something about the population problem.

  16. "And stop eating meat."

    Fuck you.

  17. Aside from the "Some things do use power when off and you can't trust the public to differientiate" statement... I do it for safety. Older wiring and older electronics combined with a hot summer house and nobody home spells disaster. I use surge protectors and shut it in one fell swoop.

    Are you gonna check/post results on other applicances? Cell phone charger? I saw that one on a commercial even. I love busted myths!

  18. nobody failed at reading dude. you just disproved yourself with your own claim.

    You tested a mac and it drew power, an eletronic device .

    You tested a toaster, it drew no power, its an electric device.

    you didnt make a logical argument AT ALL.


  19. If you ever want to speed up the Kill A Watt calculations, check out my simple webpage calculator at http://www.sustainabilitybythesea.org/calculators/kill-a-watt-calculator/