Should I unplug my appliances?

With the cost of energy bills on the rise in recent times many of us have been trying to find ways to save money. An obvious first place to start us using a price comparison site such as ours in order to compare energy tariffs so that you can be sure you aren’t being charged more than necessary for the amount of gas or electricity you use. But what next?

There are many urban myths about whether turning off or completely unplugging appliances will save you money on your electricity bills, but is there any truth to it? And if so, just how much could you be saving on your electricity bill each year?

From a safety perspective, it does make sense to unplug appliances when not in use. Despite the fact that it is extremely rare for anything to go wrong with your appliance when it is plugged in but not in use, why not unplug it anyways? There’s no harm in doing so for most small household appliances.

Unplugging any electrical appliance is almost a sure-fire way to save electricity, and thus save you money on your electricity bill. This is because all appliances, even when not in use, bleed some energy (often called ‘standby’, ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire’ energy). Even when turned off, appliances will keep syphoning off power. Your microwave will keep using up electricity just to power the clock on it’s display, and your phone charger will keep burning energy even when it isn’t plugged into your phone simply because there isn’t an ‘off’ setting on most chargers.

If you start turning off and unplugging devices around your home the electricity savings start to really add up. Think about all the chargers you have for your phones, tablets, laptops, toothbrushes, wireless devices, portable vacuums etc. This is especially true of charges that have black box transformers on them (such as laptop chargers) as these draw power constantly whilst plugged in and waste about 75% of the electricity that goes through them even if they’re plugged in just due to inefficiency.

These electricity savings can have an impact on your bill. If you leave your DVD player plugged in for 6 hours a day you’ll be wasting £3.15 for no reason at all. Whilst leaving laptop charger plugged in for 4.5hours a day wastes £1.63 yearly, and a phone charger plugged in for 5.5hours a day would waste 62p.

The Energy Saving Trust advises that turning devices off instead of leaving them on standby would allow households to save £30 a year. Now, whether these savings are worth the effort of you plugging and unplugging these devices all the time is up to you, but for most devices it really isn’t much effort to just switch off the socket and unplug it if you aren’t using it.

It’s also worth mentioning that you should always turn your lights off when not in use. Despite their being urbans myths that advise that it isn’t good to keep turning lights on and off because it takes more energy for them to turn back on again, this isn’t enough to outdo the savings made by turning them off (even for a short period of time). The Energy Saving Trust estimates that £15 a year could be saved by turning off the lights in your home when not in use.

So are there any circumstances in which you wouldn’t unplug an appliance? There are a couple. Due to the way they are set up, sometimes trying to turn off and unplug a dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, or cooker can be one hell of an effort, so these are probably best left plugged in to save you from doing your back in. The same applies for set-top boxes or any other device that resets itself when it’s been unplugged (requiring you to reprogram it)- these too are best left plugged in to save your sanity. In these cases, however, it is best to use a standby setting where available, as using the standby setting is better than having it on. The use of extension cords can also be useful for turning off and unplugging appliances all at once, though it is advised you don’t overload these.

Photo by Phenyo Deluxe from Pexels

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