Always On?

Nearly all new electrical products —TVs, microwave ovens, air conditioners, and many more — draw power 24 hours a day, often without the knowledge of the consumer. We call this power consumption "standby power." Here you can find information on standby power and technologies to reduce it. 

What Is Standby Power and Why Do We Need It?

Image of finger pushing power button.Standby power is the electricity consumed by devices when they are switched off or not performing their primary functions. The definition varies with the device. For this website, standby power encompasses a range of low power modes. 

We need standby power because it performs useful tasks that supplement the primary functions. In other cases, standby power arises from poor design.  In all cases, careful design can reduce standby power use.


How Large Is Standby Power?Set of digital home devices connected by wi-fi. IOT technology for house gadgets or internet of things with remote connection.

Most products draw relatively little standby power – less than 0.5 watts – but they still add up. A typical American home has many  products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to 5-10% of residential electricity use. Commercial buildings are also filled with equipment, appliances, and components that draw standby power. Standby power use is a global problem and even affects climate change: those billions of products continuously drawing standby power are responsible for about 1% of global carbon emissions.

Research into Measurement and Reduction of Standby

Meter reading standby power of slow cookerResearch has been undertaken to measure standby power and then to find ways to reduce it. This research spans over 20 years, partly because the technical characteristics of standby power have evolved. Twenty years ago standby in typical products was typically 1 - 3 W, but now they are probably near 0.5. That’s a huge improvement; unfortunately, the number of products with standby have increased by even more, leaving us with approximately the same amount of standby energy but now dispersed over many more products. This evolution calls for new technologies and strategies to reduce standby. Here is a partial list of articles, reports, and other documents related to standby since 2000.


Standby Power FAQ

For answers to frequently asked questions about standby power, please visit the FAQ page.