Behavioural Measures Pt 1 – Thermostat & Standby

by Jamie on December 13, 2009 · 3 comments

In my post on Measuring Electricity Consumption, I made reference to changing habits to reduce electricity consumption. These are known as “behavioural measures” and these should be the first steps taken when you start to reduce your energy consumption. They’re free and they’re easy to do – you just need to think about how you interact with energy in your life and adjust your habits ever so slightly.

You’ve probably heard some of them before and no doubt you are doing some already but there’s always a few others you can adopt. In this first post we’ll cover a few of them but please feel free to add your own in the comments below. I’ll do two or three per post so this could be quite a lengthy series 🙂


First of all there’s the old chestnut of turning down your thermostat. The temperature you keep in your house affects your energy consumption a lot. For every degree higher you set the thermostat, it increases your heating consumption by roughly 10%.

Generally people say “turn your thermostat down 1 degree” but really what you want to do is turn it down to the lowest temperature at which you still feel comfortable. For most people this should be somewhere around the 18 or 20 degree mark but the lower the better.

This saves energy for two reasons: it takes less energy to warm up your house to the required temperature but it also means that your house loses heat at a reduced rate because the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside air.  All in all, your boiler will be working less hard.

Your room thermsostat is only one of your heating controls and setting these controls correctly is key to getting the best efficiency out of your heating system. It’s a complicated topic and deserves posts of its own and I will cover this soon. All I’ll say at this point is that you want your heating on for as little time as possible and at as low a temperature as possible while maintaining a comfortable, warm living environment.


Many homes have quite a variety of electrical equipment nowadays. Just take a moment to think about what you might have out of (deep breath)…. TVs, VCR, DVD player, digital radio, hifi, MP3 player, games console, digital camera, set top box, mobile phones, computer, monitor, printer, scanner, broadband modem, wifi router, electric toothbrush, shaver, washing machine, dishwasher, tumble dryer, microwave, oven and hob.

All of the devices in that list will have some sort of standby consumption to a greater or lesser degree. The better performing products might have standby of 1W or less but a few can easily be over 10W and in a couple of cases even up to the 20W mark.

A good rule of thumb is that for every watt of standby you leave on, it costs you about £1 per year. This may not sound like a lot but it adds up across all of the devices you have in your home and it’s so easy to avoid!

Some things, such as video recorders, portable phones, clock radios, security systems etc have unavoidable standby because they need to be left switched on. There’s not much you can do about that except for if you ever come to purchase a device such as this, try and find one with low standby consumption.

Portable devices such as the camera and mp3 are less of a problem. They are very efficient and use very little energy to power themselves, but their chargers do draw a small amount of current if left in and plugged on. The old, clunky chargers that were slightly warm to the touch were quite bad, drawing 2 or 3W if left plugged in but now the lightweight chargers are a lot better and there is a European directive in place (the Energy Using Products directive) that will keep driving down standby consumption. Until that happens though, it’s worth making the effort to switch stuff off.

The ones to watch out for are the set top box, hifis and digital radios. Set top boxes have, in some cases, eye watering standby consumption. The more complex digital TV boxes (like Sky and Virgin) can knock out 15W to 20W so having it just sit there not doing anything can add about £15 to £20 to your electricity bill. I unplug my Virgin set top box when it’s not being used – it works just fine and boots up quickly.

You can measure standby using plug in electricity meters but these can be a little inaccurate and this really affects things at low, standby wattages (I’m trying to track down a very accurate plug in electricity meter and if anyone knows where to find one, please let me know). You don’t need to know how much power is being drawn on standby, just assume that it is and unplug it.

If unplugging something is awkward then there are standby saving devices which you can buy that make things a bit easier.  Simply plug everything that you want to be able to turn off standby into a 4 way socket and then plug that into a standby saving device such as a Standby Buster or an Energenie.


1 Tom Hitchman January 4, 2010 at 10:17 am

This is an interesting site in that users put in the standby and usual on power usage of items that they own and have measured using a kill-a-watt or similar device (and yes they don’t always register the low watts below 5 I think).

Make sure on the search screen you press the push lever!!!

This site does definately need some more support to fill their database. They don’t have a virgin set top box at present.

2 Tom Hitchman January 4, 2010 at 10:18 am don’t know how to do the url’s sorry!!

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