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A generic appliance, showing power supply, internal circuitry, displays, and sensors

Standby power is necessary because certain components must have power to respond while appliances are in standby mode. For example, most TVs can be switched on using a remote control. This is possible because the TV has an infrared receiver that is continuously looking for the signal from the remote control. Although the infrared receiver uses only a few milliwatts, other components, such as a decoder chip and the power supply, must also be active for the IR receiver to work properly. In addition, many appliances are not designed to be efficient, meaning that some components might be left active even though they are not needed. The sum of the energy consumption of all of these components is what we call standby power.

Due in large part to the increasing popularity of mobile and battery-powered applications, energy-efficient components are not hard to come by. Most individual components use only a few milliwatts. Historically, the most power-hungry standby component has been the power supply because as the load gets very small, efficiency drops to zero. Currently the most efficient models are over 90% efficient, even at power levels under 1 watt. Based on industry-published power use values of common components, we believe that nearly all standby functions can be performed with a total appliance standby power of one watt or less. Read our "Reducing Leaking Electricity to 1 Watt" for more information.

Manufacturers hoping to reduce the power use of their appliances may want to read EDn Magazine's "Drop by Drop, 'Green' Design Saves Buckets of AC Power" by Bill Schweber, or "Squeeze Watts From Your Embedded Design" by Warren Webb, both Technical Editors of EDn Magazine (February 4, 1999 issue).

The material found on this page is considered archival. Please visit http://standby.lbl.gov for the most recent information about Standby Power.