Your home's idle load is a leaky faucet.
You might think everything in your home is turned off when you leave for the day or for a vacation, but it’s not. Our homes use more and more energy through what’s called a home's "idle load", the energy used by electronics and appliances even when they are not in use. The always-on usage of our homes is growing due to the ever increasing number of things we have 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 increases daily.
The power used by these devices even while they are not in use can be enormous—up to a third of a typical home’s electric use. We measured the average idle load across 70,000 California homes at 1,900 kWh per year for each home, which is nearly 30% of a typical home’s electric consumption.
In 2015, we worked closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to analyze idle loads. Our full report is available here, but the main takeaway is that home idle loads are larger than expected and will continue to expand. Currently these always-on but inactive devices are estimated to cost Americans $19 Billion annually through their idling energy use, which is the equivalent of 50 power plants’ annual generation of electricity.
But there is good news. It's usually easy and inexpensive to reduce a home's idle load. Small things can make a big difference: unplug seldom used appliances (like that old VCR in the spare bedroom), put electronics in full sleep mode, add smart strips to entertainment and computer systems, and use inexpensive digital timers. Using our free software tools, we help you reduce your energy waste with several no- or low-cost solutions.
We’re really good at this. Over a 44 month period, we documented a 6.6% reduction in idle load across 1,239 participants in Mountain View’s energy efficiency program. If all 70,000 homes in Mountain View had 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.