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Cal utility study says appliance standby hikes bills

Daily Planet Wire Report
Monday February 12, 2001

A joint study by the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that appliances on “standby” mode have a considerable impact on electricity bills. 

If you need proof, the scientists and students who conducted the study say, just darken your house one evening and look for the glowing red dots and the flashing faces of your digital clock. 

Every second of that residential light show is costing you money. 

According to the study, the average California home pays between $50 and $70 a year for “leaking” electricity. Eliminating it could save you between six and 26 percent on your average monthly electricity bill. 

“We've only recently found out how substantial the energy savings can be,” said Daniel Kammen, Berkeley professor and director of its Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. “People could save enough power to offset the rise in electricity rates. 

The study, conducted last spring by graduate student J.P. Ross, surveyed 10 Northern California homes which had an average of 19 appliances on standby and were of varying sizes and number of occupants. 

Ross and co-writer Alan Meier found that a 67 watt per household average used to power items on standby. That is more electricity than what would be used to leave a 60-watt bulb on nonstop for a whole year. 

Although the study was small, the authors say it's clear that leaking electricity is costing energy consumers money, and reducing its consumption could be beneficial. 

One thing you can do is to unplug your home appliances when you're not using them, or to group them all on a surge protector so that they can all be turned off at once. 

Computer printers waste a lot of electricity, as do some television sets and video cassette recorders. Cell phone rechargers and cable television boxes also cost Californians money. 

While unplugging your appliances is one solution, the authors noted that a permanent solution lies with the appliance manufacturers. In Europe, for example, some appliances come with two power buttons, one that leaves them ready to be used with a remote and others that actually turn the appliance off. 

Meier and Ross also say the manufacturers could comply with a one-watt energy mode standard that could reduce leaking electricity by 68 percent without compromising functionality.