Standby power and “smart” devices

Reduce standby power, reduce your electricity bill

Canadians love being connected: communicating via our smartphones, streaming online content on our TVs, controlling home temperature and lighting from our smartphones; the list goes on. And the range of available products increases every year. However, being connected means being “on” all the time and using electricity – even in standby mode. Did you know that standby power consumption can account for 5 to 10% of a household’s electricity bill?

Although some devices need to be operational all the time, others can be powered down into a “sleep mode” without negative impacts on their functionality. Canadians can also reduce electricity usage by making more energy efficient purchasing decisions and modifying their behaviour.

Helpful tips

Energy Star logo
  • Make the simple choice: look for the ENERGY STAR® symbol
    ENERGY STAR certified products are already more energy efficient than standard models and have lower standby power than comparable non-ENERGY STAR products. This is because consumption thresholds are built into the certification requirements. The list of ENERGY STAR certified products that have connected criteria is growing, including fridges, room air conditioners, LED light bulbs and smart thermostats. This means that when you buy an ENERGY STAR certified product, you know it’s tested and certified to use less energy in standby mode.
  • Purchase “smart” or connected devices wisely
    As you replace older products and make new purchases, consider how often that product will be used. While it may make sense to install an ENERGY STAR certified connected LED bulb in your TV room where you relax every night, the same bulb may not be a wise choice in your bedroom or guest room where the light is rarely on. Remember that connected products always use energy, even on standby mode. While you may think you’re saving energy, your utility bills may increase if your new product, ENERGY STAR certified or otherwise, is “always on”.
  • Unplug products when not in use
    “Phantom (or standby) power” is the energy used by electronics when you’re not using them. There are many ways to tackle phantom power at home and at work. Disconnect guest TVs from electricity outlets. Turn game consoles off when not in use. Plug your coffee maker into a power bar and switch it off when you’re not preparing your next drink.
  • Give your energy bill a vacation
    Unplug devices when you are away for an extended period of time. Why pay for extra watts when you’re not at home or at the office for a week or longer?
  • Use an advanced power bar
    Advanced power bars can help save electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some power bars can be put on timers to cut the power at a set time. Other “smart” power bars have a “master” plug socket and “slave” plug sockets. Plug the TV into the master socket and plug all other devices used with the TV, such as DVD players and video game systems, into the slave sockets. When you turn off the TV, the smart power bar cuts power to the devices plugged into the slave sockets, automatically saving energy and reducing your electricity costs.

The challenge: we’re using more and more electricity

Being “connected” through electronics 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is revolutionising our society. Although the energy efficiency of these products keeps improving, the sheer volume of electronic products used at home and at work across Canada has grown significantly over the last decade. This means we’re using more and more electricity.

In the past, electrically powered devices were either “on” or “off”. Now Canadians rely on a wider range of devices and want them to be “ready for action” at the blink of an eye.

Standby vs. network-enabled standby – what’s the difference?

 “Standby power” is the power used by an appliance or device when it’s not in use but ready for action. It’s also sometimes called “phantom power”.  

“Network-enabled standby” (also called “network-connected standby”) is the energy used by a product when it remains connected to the internet while no primary function is being performed. Network standby is applicable to both network equipment (e.g. modems, routers and switches) and connected products ranging from light bulbs, home entertainment devices, room air conditioners, smart thermostats and household appliances. Televisions and computers are other classic examples. 

Connected devices are rapidly expanding to include products that offer both wired and wireless network functionality. Our new “smart homes” include network connected security systems, smoke detectors, lighting, heating and ventilation systems, and appliances, just to list a few.

Being connected allows us to have more insight into our energy use as well as the power to control our home systems remotely. However, being “connected” does comes at an energy cost. Network-enabled devices can draw as much power in their standby mode as when fully activated.

The good news is that consumers can make better purchasing decisions and adjust the settings of their devices to reduce energy consumption. For starters, buying ENERGY STAR is always a safe bet. ENERGY STAR certified products with connected features minimize standby losses and offer convenience and energy-saving features, such as alerts indicating performance issues or feedback on the energy-efficiency of different cycle selections. These products are also “smart grid” ready, meaning they provide the option to connect directly to your local utility to save money on energy bills, where those services are offered, and also facilitate broader electric power system efficiency.


The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.