Energy Saving Tips For Buying & Using Electronics

Tina Sieber 09-05-2013

energy saving tipsElectronics make up a significant portion of your household energy costs. Computers, printers, and WiFi routers alone account for around 25% of your electricity bill. While electronics are becoming more efficient, their increased use offsets the gains.


At the same time energy prices are rising. There are a number of energy saving tips you can do to control your energy bill and none of them cost you any money. Once you understand how electricity gets wasted and where you can step in, you can cut your bill and save money.

Turn It Off When You Don’t Use It

Devices consume electricity for as long as they are turned on. Hence, turning them off will save energy. So far so obvious. But here’s the catch: many devices continue to suck energy even when you think they are turned off! Up to 75% of electronics’ total electricity use is due to so-called phantom or vampire loads.

energy saving tips

Almost all home electronics and kitchen appliances are guilty of using electricity when turned off. Some of the biggest offenders are chargers that continuously draw power, even while not in use. A good sign that your charger is wasting your money is if it is warm, although it is not charging anything. Even worse are devices that go into Standby, rather than turning off. There is a simple trick to completely turn off these devices and cut out phantom loads: unplug them.

energy saving products


Most households have over a dozen electronic devices. Unplugging all of them separately can be a bit tedious. However, if you have a power strip, you can group devices that you want to turn off collectively, for example your PC, monitor, and printer. Then simply switch off or unplug the entire strip after you have shut down the computer and kiss vampire loads goodbye. You can do the same with your TV setup and kitchen appliances and plug electronics you need to be always on, such as the fridge or your WiFi router, into a separate power outlet. Switching off power strips will cost you a few seconds each day and, depending on your current bill, can save you hundreds of Dollars a year. To me that’s worth it.

Customize Windows Power Options

Every Windows computer comes with power options. You can customize the power plan to change the time after which the display is dimmed, turned off, or when the computer goes to sleep. You can even control the default display brightness. There is great potential for saving energy in these settings. Remember that a computer running in low-power mode not only uses less energy, it also runs cooler and will thus last longer. For more details, refer to the following article: Windows 7 Power Options And Sleep Modes Explained Windows 7 Power Options and Sleep Modes Explained When Windows 7 launched, one of Microsoft's selling points was that it was designed to help your battery last longer. One of the main features users will actually notice is that the screen dims before... Read More

energy saving products

And when you know you will be out of the house for a while, shut down your computer or at least hibernate it.


Note that screen savers do not reduce your monitor’s energy use! Moreover, it is generally not true that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This may theoretically be true for single components like the hard drive, but in reality other factors like heat and actual use cause a lot more damage than turning devices on and off. Besides, you will probably want to buy a new device before your old one breaks naturally. This brings us to…

What You Need to Know When Buying Electronics

Buying new and energy efficient devices can save a lot of energy and significantly cut your electricity bill. However, replacing a perfectly functional device just because it uses a little more electricity is neither a good economic nor a good ecologic decision. First, the bulk of the ecological cost of an electronic device Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More arises during its production and recycling, i.e. all the material and energy resources needed to produce, transport, and physically or chemically break it up into usable components during the recycling process. Second, you have to spend a big amount money before you start saving small amounts or energy and money. So please think twice before you go ahead and buy something new.

When you do buy a new electronic device, look for energy labels, like the ENERGY STAR for office equipment or the EU Energy Label for household appliances. ENERGY STAR labelled products for example use around half the electricity of standard equipment. Moreover, these devices must offer a low-power mode in which they use 15 Watts or less. Get informed about equivalent labels in your area. A little more money paid for an energy saving device can save you many times the investment in the long run.

energy saving products


When you buy a new computer, consider buying a laptop. Laptop battery life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life Read More is a significant factor for consumers and thus manufacturers have optimized the energy use of hardware components. Consequently, laptops are much more energy efficient How Much Power Does Your PC Need? Computers need power. They turn it into heat, noise, and light -- like magic. But how much power does your PC need, exactly? Let's find out where all that power goes... Read More than desktop PCs and use considerably less electricity.

Likewise, ink-jet printers consume up to 90% less energy than laser printers and TFTs require only 25% of the energy an old CRT monitor needs.

Whatever computer you buy, don’t buy a stronger hardware than you really need. High resolution screens draw high amounts of energy, as do strong processors and graphics cards.

Finally, watch out for 80 PLUS certified power supplies and manufacturers.


Find Out How Much You Can Save

But you don’t have to rely on a label alone, you can also compare yourself. Check the wattage of devices on their data sheets and compare several models. For example you could compare your current TV with various models you are interested in. The website has a list of typical wattage of household appliances and explains how you can calculate the yearly energy use and cost yourself.

energy saving tips


You can save a significant amount of money every year by turning off devices that are not in use and preventing phantom loads. Additional energy can be saved by adjusting your computer’s power options and turning it off wisely. Finally, when buying new devices, a bit of research and upfront investments in energy efficient devices can save a lot of electricity and money in the long run.

Do you know how much electricity your household uses and what your potential for saving is?

Share and discuss your own energy saving tips and numbers in the comments and maybe I will reveal my numbers, too.

Information resources: Blackle,, Energy Star
Image credits: Energy Saving via Shutterstock, Unplugged via Shutterstock, Power Strip via Shutterstock

Related topics: Buying Tips, Energy Conservation, Save Money.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Denty
    August 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    For what time do notifications come?

  2. Lynne McCurdy
    May 30, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I leave my pc on all the time when i'm home; I use my hdtv for my monitor, and put the pc to sleep if i watch tv. I leave the tv on, and the a/c for my cat when i'm gone from home. i leave my chargers plugged in all the time. But... i only keep one cfc light on at a time. I don't have a stereo, i use my pc. I don't use my printer unless necessary, i save to pdf, or Evernote, google drive, skydrive, etc. I use either my pc or android phone for everything... calculator, alarm clock, stereo, movies, communication. The result? Pacific Gas & Electric tells me that i use 80% less electricity than "similar" homes. I guess using one or two devices well works out better than a bunch of single use products, all sucking "vampire" energy?

    • Tina Sieber
      May 30, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Wow, 80% less! That's pretty amazing, Lynne. Way to go!

      And it's the same experience I have made. I use my laptop for almost everything. Other than that I have , no stereo, no fancy lighting installations, no A/C (fortunately don't need one) or electric heating , no TV, a super energy efficient fridge, and no dryer. The last few items are probably the biggest energy consumers in the average household.

  3. dragonmouth
    May 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    A good way to cut down on electricity usage is to replace electric convenience devices with their mechanical or manual equivalents.

    Replace your electric alarm clock with a mechanical windup clock. Bring back the cuckoo clock.
    Replace your electric carving knife with a manual one. They worked quite well for Man for thousands of years.
    Replace your electric door bell with a knocker. That's what people used before invention of electricity.
    Replace your electric grooming devices.
    Ladies - give up your battery or AC-powered nail grooming device. Nail scissors, emery board and a manual buffer work quite well to manicure your nails.
    Gentlemen - give up your electric shaver. There are many fine manual razors on the market. You can use scissors to trim your beard, mustache and remove your nose and ear hair.
    Replace you electric toothbrush with a manual one.
    Instead of chopping, grating, grinding, mashing or juicing food in a processor, do it by hand.

    I'm sure that I have missed more than a few devices but a walk through the house/apartment will reveal more candidates for replacement. While each device by itself does not use much electricity/batteries, multiple by millions and the power saved can add up to kilowatts, if not megawatts.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      You missed candles and the stairs.

      • dragonmouth
        May 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

        Just as I thought. You want to save the environment but you are too attached to your electric/electronic gewgaws.

        I did not include stairs since many of us work or live in buildings taller than 5 stories. With today's sedentary life styles even 5 flights of stairs is too much to climb, let alone 10, 20 or more.

        Candles I omitted because our civilized society does not know hoe to deal with open flame(s) anymore. While candles might save electricity, they present too much of a fire hazard. Fires themselves generate a lot of pollutants and the equipment used to fight them generates more.

        However, "modern conveniences" are First World problems. The rest of the world is too busy trying to survive to worry about electricity wasted by electric grooming devices.

        • Tina Sieber
          May 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm

          Not sure what you mean. I don't even own most of the devices you mentioned and I could add plenty more that I also don't own. But my energy is better invested into enjoying the environment.

  4. David Moreira
    May 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    The best advice is really to just unplug if not using. And try not to use light as many times as possible, using open windows and, at night, I try to use the cellphone light to guide me through the house instead of just turning on the lights.

  5. eugen
    May 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    i use a addon printerfriendly on chrome to use for optimise the print,also i refill the cartridiges,but for invoices i have bought a laser printer black and white

  6. Zhong J
    May 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Let's not talk about tips if people's habits are the common problem, my cousin would always charge her iPad even if the battery level is full and would always plug her laptop adapter because "her screen isn't bright enough". She tend to fail at realizing that she left the lights on at night and would never notice it until someone actually told her.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Attitudes can only change if an awareness for something else is built.

      Energy is becoming more expensive and people are looking for energy savings tips because they can't afford to spend more money on electricity. This is where these tips help build an understanding and change behavior.

  7. macwitty
    May 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Even if standby not use much energy for each device - add them together and there is a lot. Vi have in each room to switch of all things that do not need to be on. Last person switch it off

  8. null
    May 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for reminding us!

  9. James Bruce
    May 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Vampire power can be an issue with some devices - but chargers are actually the least likely culprits: - and your figure of 75% is just outright ridiculous. I appreciate the sentiment, but there are far better things to spend your time on in terms of reducing energy waste or carbon footprint than unplugging chargers. One less cup of tea a day would save more energy!

    It seems like the whole vampire power has just been a marketing campaign to make people think they're doing something, when in reality their efforts mean nothing. It's a diversion from the real problem. The government is afraid to say "stop driving your monstrously big cars" or "stop flying so god damn much" because the public and business just wouldn't accept that, even though it would have far bigger impact than all the people in the world unplugging their chargers every day.

    Of course I'm not disagreeing with everything: better energy efficiency should be mandatory for all appliances; certainly turn off the screen rather than using a screen saver (god, remember those?) - I just think my time is better spent in other consumption reduction efforts than unplugging things to save 0.5% of total energy usage.

    • dragonmouth
      May 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      "The government is afraid to say “stop driving your monstrously big cars” or “stop flying so god damn much” because the public and business just wouldn’t accept that"
      The government (politicians) should do that but they won't because it will adversely affect their future as politicians.

      What makes me really laugh (cry?) is that great champion of the environment, Big Al Gore, and his enviro-nut buddies scheduling their symposia and conferences in the garden spots of the world. How do they get there? They fly in their private jets. How do they get to the airports? They are too important for walking, bicycling or taking public transportation. Only a private limos will do. Do they stay at hostels? Definitely not! They deign to stay only at the plushest 5 star hotels available, with all the modern conveniences. How many chargers or PCs do we have to unplug to save the energy used by just one such "environmentalist" on just one trip?!

      • MakeUseOf TechGuy
        May 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

        I'm not really sure what Al-Gore does to be honest - just lectures? But there could be an argument made that the effect of his enviro-preaching will offset his carbon footprint from making those flights many times over.

        The bigger problem I have is the regular businessmen and women who do that every day - when a skype video conference would be just as acceptable.

        • dragonmouth
          May 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm

          I agree with you but to achieve any realistic changes/savings there needs to be a human race-wide attitude readjustment. This is where Big Al Gore and his "environmentalist" friends could really help. They should lead by example. Instead of flitting from conference to symposium to conference, they should use the Internet to teleconference.

          "But there could be an argument made that the effect of his enviro-preaching will offset his carbon footprint from making those flights many times over. "
          Oh, I'm sure that argument will be made. But do you really believe that it is true??? How many people will he convince with his "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude? It would be much more convincing, at least to me, to see Big Al and his faithful spouse, Tipper, out in their garden, planting veggies for their kitchen, than all their enviro-bloviating. The inconvenient truth is that Big Al and Tipper make too much money from enviro-preaching to give it up.

          This is how green Al Gore is:

    • Tina Sieber
      May 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

      I wrote "up to 75%" and I agree that this sounds extreme. The number originates from the U.S. Department of Energy, which claims that "In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off."

      If you have a massive amount of entertainment and other devices running on standby whenever not in use (your average American home?), this might actually be true. For some devices it is definitely true.

      In a democracy the government represents the people. So yes, they cannot force people to do extreme things because there is neither a majority nor an influential lobby to support them. What can be done, however, is to sensitize the public for topics that are of public interest.

      So initiatives like these aren't merely meant to make people feel as if they are doing something, it's a first step in building awareness and understanding, which is the groundwork on top of which true change can happen.

      People who reflect on their energy usage, maybe motivated by the chance to save some money or the feeling of doing something good, are more likely to reflect on their behavior at large. It takes time for a new way of thinking to penetrate public awareness and it takes even longer until significant change happens.

      • James Bruce
        May 11, 2013 at 11:14 am

        At this point, we don't have time to lay groundwork. We are forever laying groundwork, setting targets for 50 years in the future, allowing idiots to debate if climate change is even a real thing, and generally accomplishing nothing. I don't want to sound nihilistic, but without something very drastic we are already beyond the point of bloody hopeless - all we can do now is to prepare for the chaos that will ensue.

        The most recent figure I heard was that even if we stopped using all fossil fuels tomorrow, the earth would continue to feel the effects of global climate change for another 100 years. We need legislators with balls to make some real changes. I really thought a few more natural disasters would be enough to tip the tide of public opinion, but it just hasn't.

        • Tina Sieber
          May 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

          I agree. We need immediate and drastic global change. And even then, it will take society decades to recover from the damage that has already been done. In theory top-down pressure can make those changes happen. In practice, any such attempts will lead to war.

        • dragonmouth
          May 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm

          Beware of the Jabberwock of Unintended Consequences.

          In the United States the amount of miles driven has been coming down over the past few years. IIRC, the number has dropped by 2%-3% since 2009. While that may not seem like much, considering that the overall number of miles driven is in the Billions, 2%-3% is a goodly amount. However, small as the number may be, it has had a negative impact on the economy of regions that rely on tourism. Because people stay home instead of taking vacations, the income of those who provide services to the vacationers has been dropping, causing them, in turn, to spend less. The merchants that depend on the vacation industry, make less money and sell less products so they order less from suppliers who in turn order less from the manufacturers who cut production. When production is cut, less workers are needed so they are laid off. They cut their spending drastically affecting all the merchants they have been patronizing, etc., etc., etc. right down the line. Pretty soon the economy of an entire region is in the toilet. I suppose a ruined economy is a small price to pay to preserve the environment. The end justifies the means.

          But, if that is true, then we might as well adopt the view of the Earth Liberation Front that humankind is a pest and as such should be eliminated. Anything to preserve the environment. Let the cockroaches inherit the Earth.

  10. Pooky Joralyn
    May 10, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Can you suggest any software that can track power usage on a Windows 8 laptop?

    • Scott M
      May 10, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Soluto free will track your power usage.

  11. phogey2
    May 10, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Good Job & very good tips . We're saving a lot of $$. I had to speak to someone at the power co & she said what a good job we did saving power . Ir was after reading this so thank you.

  12. dragonmouth
    May 9, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Hibernate/Suspend = Vampire load.

    Some of the biggest offenders are the Instant On devices.

    Laptops may be more efficient than PCs but their batteries are an environmental hazard.

    Laptops are more efficient than PCs but tablets are more efficient than laptops, and smart phones are more efficient still. Q.E.D. we should all switch to smart phones. Of course, it's kind of hard to do real work on a tablet or smart phone. But what the heck, it's for the good of the environment.

    If I had a Windows computer I would shut it down every time I got up from my desk to avoid BSODs and other crashes. But I use Linux which stays up 24/7/365/years so the PC stays on all the time.

    I can just see you running around your house for half an hour or so powering every device that you turned off before leaving. But what the heck, it's for the good of the environment.

    If I was as worried about wasting electricity as you are, I wouldn't go for penny ante stuff like pulling power strips out of the wall. I would just throw the Master Switch on my breaker panel just before I left the house. That way I would be sure there were no phantom/vampire loads. And, as an added bonus, nobody could steal electricity from my outdoor sockets.

    Yes, I am having some fun at your expense. :-)