Switch it off

Have you heard of the ‘Vampire appliances’ adding unnecessary megawatts to your energy bills?

Day and night the appliances you leave on standby (and yes, that can mean simply switched on at the wall!) are wasting energy. Add to that the excessive energy consumption by some inefficient household appliances and you could be spending hundreds of pounds a year more than you need to.

Vampire Appliances draining your energy

Turn off appliances when not in use

The cost of leaving common everyday appliances switched on at the wall can, and does, soon add up.

The older generation has been brought up to switch things off at the wall whereas the younger generation, and Gen-Zs (under 25s) in particular, are far more inclined to leave the phone charger plugged in at the wall, leave the Playstation on rest mode for prolonged periods, leave the printer switched on and leave the TV on standby. So in many cases, senior living is more sustainable that the lifestyle of Gen-Zs.

'Watt' appliances are to blame?

Comparing energy costs for domestic appliances
Comparing different devices' standby power consumption. Source: Centre for Sustainable Energy
  • Leaving a printer or TV on standby (plugged in and switched on at the wall) still uses a small amount of power, even though the devices themselves aren’t in use.
  • A Sky or TV box uses around 30W even on standby, which can add up to around £50 a year. Top tip: Sky says it uses less than 1w overnight if you have Eco mode turned on.
  • An extra fridge can cost up to £99 a year so if you don't need it all year round, switch it off.
  • Outdoor security lights can cost £59 a year if they’re overly sensitive. Make sure they're set to only come on after dark.
  • Outdoor lighting can cost £148 a year (based on 2 x 60W lights on for 10 hours overnight). Timers are a great way to set your lights to turn on and off, or simply switch the lights off when you go to bed.
  • Having underfloor heating on for an extra hour a day can add as much as £367 to your bill annually and an electric towel rail can add £176 a year, according to a recent report by the Daily Mail.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, leaving your phone charger plugged in and switched on uses a negligible amount of power. In fact, an Apple plug tuns off its power draw when not in use.
  • A microwave or oven on the other hand, can cost around £30 a year simply to display the clock.

View the CSE's table of energy consumption for common household appliances

Winter energy costs

Here are some tips from the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to help keep costs down this winter.

  1. Switch it off: The list above isn’t exhaustive but it’ll certainly set you off to a strong start if you switch appliances off at the wall when you're not using them.
  2. Replace light bulbs: Incandescent light bulbs are about 5 times more expensive to operate than newer LED light bulbs. LED bulbs last far longer too – around 25,000 hours, compared with only 1,000 hours for an incandescent bulb. Today’s LEDs can provide the look and feel of an incandescent bulb without wasting energy. LEDs use 90% less energy than halogen bulbs. And the average LED bulb is only slightly more expensive, available from around £3 apiece.
  3. Consider using smart bulbs: If you can afford them, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-controlled smart bulbs (available from around £10 each) can be even more energy-efficient in the long run, enabling you to control your lighting while you’re away. We’ve all gone out and then realised we left the light on!
  4. Manage your energy account online: that way, you know what you’re using and what impact any changes make.
  5. Use more efficient appliances: If you’re replacing an appliance, an energy-efficient model may cost slightly more but can save you more in the long run. According to Which? Reports, using the most efficient model can save as much as £510 a year compared with the least efficient (based on the top 4 appliances – fridge freezer, tumble dryer, washing machine and dishwasher).
  6. Use less water: If there’s a water or energy-efficient cycle on your dishwasher or washing machine, use it.
  7. Draught-proof your home: You don’t need to be an expert DIY-er to seal any draughts in your home. Look out for gaps between or around floorboards; around windows and doors; through the letterbox; where pipework comes through external walls; around the loft hatch; and around electrical fittings. The CSE website has some handy tips.
  8. Check your loft insulation: In a typical house, about 25% of heat is lost via the roof. Loft insulation is a simple and effective way to reduce your heating bills. You can even do some types yourself and still use your loft for storage. Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years, and will pay for itself many times over.
  9. Lower the flow temperature of your combi-boiler: This can save you 6% to 8% on your heating bill. Most gas combi boilers are set up to heat water to 80°C, but 60°C can be adequate. You should only adjust the temperature if you have a combi boiler.
  10. Understand your heating system and thermostat: It sounds obvious but many modern heating systems can be confusing. Take the time to understand the controls and don’t be afraid to switch off thermostatic valves on radiators. Make sure rooms are only as warm as they need to be and keep the settings low if you’re away from home.