Consumer Devices that Drain Power in Standby Mode

Many people have heard the old adage, “turn it off when you’re not using it.” The advice is generally good. A device that is in standby mode every day for years can add a few dollars to the electrical bill. However, some devices have gotten a bad reputation for sucking power. Yet, new regulations demand that these devices have low energy requirements while in standby mode. These are still some vampirical devices that can benefit from being unplugged, but the majority of electrical gadgets won’t add much to the electricity bill.

Phone Chargers

These small devices were initially demonized for using power when not being used. Some older models still use a significant amount of power when the phone is not plugged in. However, newer devices use less than a watt of electricity in standby mode. New regulations have demanded the lower energy use. California, in particular, limits external power supplies to 0.5 watts. One blogger found that he had to plug in ten wall chargers before he could read one watt of electricity usage. Phone chargers don’t draw enough power to need to be unplugged after every use.


Like phone chargers, old televisions pull power in standby mode, but new regulations have altered newer TVs. A television purchased after 2006 shouldn’t draw more than a watt of electricity in standby mode. It’s the energy use when the television is on that matters. Buying an Energy Star model helps decrease the cost of keeping the TV “on”. The label, supplied by the U.S. government, states that the television uses 30% less energy than similar models when “on.” Though televisions can consume up to 400 watts, that only applies when they are turned on. Standby mode draws little energy.


Desktop computers, which require more power than laptops, can contribute a significant amount to a home electrical bill – with constant use. In sleep mode, computers draw 0 to 6 watts of power. Computers draw more than a phone charger or TV in standby mode, but not enough to warrant worrying about turning them off.

Electronics gadgets like phone chargers, computers and televisions have gotten a bad rap for drawing power in standby mode. A few culprits are to blame. Devices that don’t have a real “standby mode” and remain “on” are drawing more power than they should. Cable boxes, depending on the provider, may fall into this category.

However, real energy wasters are found elsewhere. Heating, cooling and laundry account for a large portion of power usage. Optimizing these devices for energy efficiency will make a much larger difference than unplugging phone chargers, computers or televisions.

Scroll to Top