Make a difference: Reduce your Idle Load 

Our homes are using more and more energy when we think everything is turned off. This is a home's "idle load" and it's growing because of the increasing number of things plugged in: game consoles, surround sound systems, DVRs, printers, desktop computers, instant hot water dispensers, fountains, recirculating pet water bowls, heated baby wipe dispensers, smart light switches... The list keeps growing as previously unheard of devices make their way into our homes. The standby power varies widely across these devices, but when you add all of them up the power consumed can be quite large. In fact, the average idle load across 70,000 California homes has been measured at 218 Watts or 1,900 Kwh per year for each home. That's nearly a third of a typical California home's electric use!

HEA worked closely with the NRDC to better understand idle loads. The take away: home idle loads are larger than expected and there is every reason to believe they will continue growing. The full report is here.

There is good news. It's usually easy and inexpensive to reduce a home's idle load. Unplugging seldom used appliances (that old VCR in the spare bedroom), putting electronics in full sleep mode, adding smart strips to entertainment and computer systems and using inexpensive digital timers can make a big difference. We've documented low- or no-cost reductions in idle load of 6.6% across 1,239 participants in Mountain View's energy efficiency program. If those 70,000 homes all reduced their average idle load by 6.6%, it would provide savings of 8,778 MWh, the equivalent energy output of about 31,000 solar panels.

New understanding of idle loads is possible because they can now be measured quickly and cheaply using smart meter data. Before smart meters, finding a home's idle load required costly field measurements. Now changes in the idle load can be measured in a matter of days. Being able to measure the idle load is the first step in making meaningful technical and behavioral changes to reduce wasted energy.