Stand-by power is the energy used by an appliance when it is not performing its main function. This could be to power an internal clock or to receive a remote control signal.

The most common types of appliances that use stand-by power include:

  • televisions and home entertainment appliances
  • computers
  • cordless telephones and fax machines
  • microwaves
  • battery chargers for portable devices, eg mobile phone chargers
  • any appliance with a remote control
  • any appliance with an electronic clock built in.

Appliance power modes

Appliances can either be in one of four power modes:

  • In-use – appliance is performing its main function, for example a DVD player is turned on and is playing a DVD.
  • Active stand-by – appliance is turned on but is waiting to be used, for example a DVD player is switched on but no DVD is being played.
  • Passive stand-by – appliance is turned off but can still be activated by a remote control, internal sensor or timer, or the appliance is performing a secondary function such as displaying the time.
  • Off – appliance is turned off and not using any energy. Some appliances may appear to be off but are still using stand-by power. Off mode is best achieved by turning the appliance off at the wall. Remote controls can't activate appliances in this mode.

Reducing stand-by power

The most effective way to avoid using stand-by power is to switch appliances off at the wall when they’re not being used.

Using a stand-by controller on audiovisual equipment (such as televisions and DVD players), and office equipment (such as computers and printers), to automatically turn off appliances when they are not in use.

You can also use power boards with switches to make it easier to turn individual appliances off.

Stand-by power consumption and costs

The following table shows the average active and passive stand-by energy use per hour for some common household appliances.

The examples are only a guide and will differ depending on the size and efficiency of your appliance. Check the manufacturer’s information for stand-by power wattage so you can calculate your running costs. Alternatively, you can use a plug-in power meter to measure stand-by power consumption. Plug-in power meters can be borrowed for free as part of a Home Energy Toolkit.

Appliance Passive stand-by power use per hour Active stand-by power use per hour

DVD player



Game console



Television (LCD)



Printer (laser)



Clothes washer (front loader)



Clock radio



Set-top box – Pay TV






The cost of stand-by power for these appliances alone on passive stand-by is $80.33 per year and active stand-by power is $215.54 per year. If you consider how many appliances you have on stand-by in your home, you can see how the cost can start to add up.

In Australia, the average stand-by power use in a household is 81.8 watts (W), 60% of which is from home entertainment and computer appliances. Every watt of stand-by power costs approximately $3.07 per year if left on all the time. For the average household as above, that equates to 81.8W x $3.07 = $251.13 per year for stand-by power.

Note: Estimated running costs are based on the AGL electricity and Origin Energy standing retail contracts. For further methodology information, please contact the Energy Advisory Service.

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Page last updated 10 October 2019

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