What is standby?

Standby consumption, also called idle loss, is the electricity lost by electrical appliances when they are waiting in standby mode. Standby describes the state of appliances that are not completely switched off, but ready to receive a signal to act (e.g. turn on fully, make a coffee, print a document, etc.). This means that the power supply remains switched on so that the appliance is ready for immediate use. This is the case, for example, with monitors, televisions, TV boxes, etc. According to standby statistics from the Swiss Agency for Energy Efficiency, electronic devices in Swiss households consume around 160 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year in standby mode alone. This corresponds to the annual electricity consumption of about 40,000 typical four-person households [1].

Standby detectives

A group of students measured the standby consumption of all their electrical appliances at home and compared them with each other. They noticed the following things:

  • Devices from the audio, TV and IT sector have a much higher standby consumption compared to the other categories.
  • Larger appliances also tend to have a higher standby consumption.
  • Chargers often have very low standby consumption (e-bike charger slightly higher, but still comparatively low)

The three students draw their own conclusion: “It was exciting to see how different the standby consumption is and we were a little shocked to see how much power our consumer electronics constantly consume in standby mode.”

Measures to reduce standby consumption

To avoid wasting electricity, appliances should be switched off completely. You can even do this from the comfort of your couch with remote-controlled sockets. However, these do not always save electricity because they are constantly on standby due to their radio module and thus in turn have standby consumption themselves. So in terms of electricity consumption, a remote-controlled socket is only worthwhile if the electricity consumption without a remote-controlled socket consumes more electricity [2]. Mechanical switches such as a timer are better. This is possible thanks to an adapter plug with a sensor that is plugged in between the appliance (TV, monitor, TV box) and the socket. Another variant is a power bar with a switch that can completely disconnect the plugged-in devices from the power supply. Don’t forget to completely switch off and unplug all electronic devices before you go on holiday [2].

Savings potential with standby

6 to 14 percent of the total electricity consumption of a household is caused by standby [3]. This can vary from household to household. By consistently avoiding standby with the measures suggested above, an average household can save between 300 and 600 kWh per year, which is equivalent to about 100 Swiss francs depending on energy prices [4].


[1]         BKW, “Energie sparen”, Accessed: Sep. 20, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.bkw.ch/de/energie/stromversorgung-privat-und-gewerbekunden/energie-sparen

[2]         F.-O. Grün, “Wann eine Funk-Steckdose Energie spart – Und wann nicht.” https://www.digitalzimmer.de/artikel/wissen/wann-eine-funksteckdose-energie-spart-und-wann-nicht/ (accessed Sep. 20, 2022).

[3]         N. Boogen, “Schweizer Haushalte könnten Strom sparen”, Accessed: Sep. 20, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://ethz.ch/de/news-und-veranstaltungen/eth-news/news/2017/05/schweizer-haushalte-koennten-strom-sparen.html

[4]         BKW, “Energie sparen”.