Energy Efficiency

A guide for homes and micro businesses


Exploring the opportunities provided by Energy Efficiency is the most cost effective (and cleanest) way to reduce emissions from energy use. In addition to saving energy, it has many additional benefits, from decreased maintenance and replacement costs for equipment to lower risk of fires in the home. Detailed example of some energy efficiency measures that can be carried out in the home or small office follow.

Standby Power

Standby power refers to the power used by electronic devices such as televisions, microwaves, touch lamps and computers when they are turned off on the front of the device but not switched off at the power point. Standby power wastes enormous amounts of energy and contributes to 10% of the average home’s electricity bill. Toasters, kettles and lamps do not use standby power.

The best solution to standby power, of course, is to turn the equipment off at the power point. This is easier said than done, especially when you have to contend with lazy parents, indifferent flatmates or young children. It’s helpful to set up the appliances in each room so that it is easy for everyone – start by labelling things and reconfiguring power boards to make it easy, then educate people and get everyone in the house into a habit.  Sometimes, a power bill competition can help, where everyone agrees to do something fun if a power saving goal is reached.


1 – Sensible placing of power boards

Many people are unlikely to turn off a TV or microwave at the switch if it is difficult to find the switch. Run a power board with its own switch from the power point to a convenient place, such as in front of the TV or microwave, or on the desk where the computer or printer is located. Power boards with illuminated switches help to remind people to turn the board off but use marginally more power.


2 – Multiple Switched Power Boards

Some power boards have switches for each power point/plug. In conjunction with labels, this is very convenient for turning off appliances. However, these are expensive and it is usually possible to beat standby power with a power board with one switch if that switch is accessible.

3 – Appropriate set up of power boards and double adaptors.

It is often the case that some appliances that should not be switched off (ie a fridge, modem or phone) share a power point or power board with appliances that use standby power, such as a microwave and coffee machine. The barrier to getting the microwave turned off overnight is that it would also mean turning off the fridge.

The best way from a safety perspective is to install another powerpoint to provide independent switching. However, that is often expensive and not necessary if we are talking about smaller appliances. In that case, a double adaptor can be used to separate the appliances to be switched off from those that should remain switched on.

To achieve this, plug a double adaptor into the single power point now accommodating the power board. Then, plug the critical must-stay-on appliance (such as the fridge) into one socket in the adaptor. Ensuring that appliances won’t exceed the power rating, into the other socket of the double adaptor, plug in a power board that has its own switch. This power board runs the appliances that use standby power. Place the power board in such a way that you can easily turn off the power board when you don’t need them – labels are preferred where the position is not obvious. In this example, now the fridge will always be on because it is always on at the power point and the microwave can easily be turned off using the single switch of the powerboard. This also works for bedrooms with desklamp/computer combinations or cases where someone does not want to turn their pay TV box off but is happy to have the TV off.


4 – Labels

By labelling the power cords, beating standby power becomes easier. It helps to form habits and to avoid unplugging your computer when you thought it was your printer.


5 – Cordline (inline) Switches

Standby power would be easier to deal with if appliances actually had switches in the power cord. You can insert a switch into the power cord of a radio and then cover up the normal switch to get into the habit of using the switch on the cord. The same can be done with microwaves, but do not use the switch while the microwave is heating food. Also, electricians are supposed to do this work. If you are not confident to do it, you may want to purchase a short extension cord with a cordline switch already installed.


6 – Multiple Remote Control Power Points

Although it is actually easy to beat standby power with a smart setup of appliances and a few weeks of getting into a habit, there are many cases where it is unlikely the occupants will ever turn off appliances at the switch. One example is entertainment units, where televisions, VCRs, DVD players, Pay TV boxes, electronic antennae and surround sound stereo systems all combine to use over 50W in standby, or 1200Wh/day (equivalent to the output of a $3000 photovoltaic system, or driving to Melbourne and back once a year). This can be beaten with a remote control power point. This is plugged into the wall and all the appliances that use standby and are able to be turned off are plugged into it. The remote control turns off the power point so that the user can turn off the standby power in the same way they turn off the TV – with a remote. How hard is that? The remote control power point itself uses 0.9W standby power.


7 – Replacing Downlights

Halogen downlights can be replaced with recessed standard lamps, known as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Typically, the ‘Tornado’ style is best because the lamp is not as long in shape.