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back to article War On Standby: Do the figures actually stack up?

The War On Standby rumbles on: this week, courtesy of the UK government and "third sector" quangocracy, we heard yet again that gadgets left on standby suck vast, planet-wrecking, expensive amounts of energy from our electricity sockets. It's an idea which has gained a lot of traction over the years. Many Reg readers (and hacks …

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So basically LP didn't like the numbers and decided to make some up? Great story...

"It's plain that a lot of the time the software was assessing things as being on standby when they were actually on and working"

No it's not - there is no evidence for that at all. LP just presumed that as he thinks those numbers seem odd given his world view. I see no measurements taken by LP though to back that up, just some ideas and numbers pulled from the arse.

"[standby] is apparently too expensive and damaging to be permitted.

Meanwhile, curiously, it appears that such things as regular showers, hot drinks and food (previously refrigerated), powerful hair-furtling appliances, clothes and bedding laundered at frequent intervals, heating kept on at high levels throughout the winter etc etc; these are all inalienable human rights."

Generally it's a good idea when making a comparison to use items that are comparable. If you compared things that can go on standby such as TVs, PCs etc with hairdryers, washing machines etc then that is entirely reasonable. Comparing the standby facility itself with hairdryers and washing machines is merely retarded.

"According to the "special software", "Aerials" use zero watts when switched on - which they never were during the entire study period, apparently"

Wow. Just wow. So the proof that the software was not working correctly is that it reports zero energy usage for a device when turned on that was never turned on? Please tell me I don't have to explain that . You'd have to have an IQ <70 to think that was an issue.

Feel free to do a year long survey of a randomly chosen population to test your ideas and report back here, but please don't just witter on for two whole fucking pages on the grounds you don't like the numbers. If you want to leave your tele on standby go for it - I don't have a problem with it. You pay the bill. Just quit the whole Daily Fail "nobody can tell me what to do/think" crap. Pretty please?

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sorry ross but

"According to the "special software", "Aerials" use zero watts when switched on - which they never were during the entire study period, apparently"

Wow. Just wow. So the proof that the software was not working correctly is that it reports zero energy usage for a device when turned on that was never turned on? Please tell me I don't have to explain that . You'd have to have an IQ <70 to think that was an issue.

You really missed the point here and your rant sounds really stupid because of it.

The aerial was registered by the software as being in standby where as in fact it was on. Aerial boosters don't have standby modes.

You could argue that it was in standby when the telly was off and add it to the list of evil things that should be turned off but to say it was never turned on is quite silly.

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IQ less than 70?

Unfortunately that would be you Ross.

You see the thing is the software thought the ariel booster was never on but in fact it was always on. So the reported standby power is actually the on power. This shows that the special software was actually sitting next to you on the bus to school, licking the windows.

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Ross, I think the point about comparing non-standby equipment and activities to standby is misplaced. The concern here is not "What consumption is better?" but rather "What to do?"

1) We're entitled to make choices within constraints, and I might well choose to leave the TV on standby and not iron my shirts. Over the year, that's going to come out way ahead (down) on energy consumption and that is what we are trying to achieve.

2) The standby thing appeals to the "every little helps" idea, and that's a fallacy that is leading people astray. If we all do a little, then in national and global terms we'll achieve a little. If we want to cut energy we have to make major changes: ending discretionary travel, wearing warm clothes indoors, making buildings, machines, clothes and everything else last much longer, having fewer children, buying in-season locally-produced goods and produce whatever the cost. That's what would help, not switching off the telly, no-matter how heartwarming it feels to do that. (There is another word for this plan, unfortunately, and it is "poverty.")

Or mayby we should stop messing around and build out some serious nuclear capacity.

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You're in the wrong place Ross, the nutters have well and truly taken a foothold now, this place is nearly finished, it's only good to come on and slag the halfwits off, the days of this site being respected died when Page took over, peddling his neocon views.

Not happy unless a brown person is under his jackboot.

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Go

@Jeebus

"Not happy unless a brown person is under his jackboot."

Is this thread the quickest call on Godwin we've had?

But anyway Jeebus, in view of your irrelevant and undoubtedly inaccurate attribution of PC heresies to LP, perhaps you should heed your own advice and fuck off back to the web site of Tree Hugger & Pseudo Science Review.

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Re: sorry ross but

You need to spot irony in written composition without <sarc> tags to explain it. The graph from report told the story. It was the report that implies that the aerial used more power when in standby than it it did when in use.

All Ross did was reword the implication into actual English. Ross' point was that the software was really stupid, a fact you emphasize yourself in saying the software treated the aerial as in standby when in fact it was on. You draw the evident conclusion that the software was mixed up, but not the follow-on point: how can duff software provide any trustworthy guidance?

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Re: Jeebus

I'm not overly happy with some of the stuff el reg has been publishing lately or the direction in which the comments section seems to be heading. If you could get of your high-horse for five minutes though and stop raging against Lewis just because he is Lewis, you'd see that this time he's not actually talking out of his arse.

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Joke

High leccy bill? Don't look at me!

I never use any powerful hair furtling devices!

Never have, never will.

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FAIL

Offsetting

I watched TV at every start of the year with my light turned off when I'd have normally left it on and from the saving there have offset enough electricity usage to allow me to leave all my equipment in standby for the rest of the year or more.

When I leave my light off to save more than I ever would use in standby I am still rebuked for that standby use by my environmentalist friends which suggests to me they are more interested in dictating social behaviour than saving the planet.

Go and pick on what would really change things, not easy targets which won't.

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We need to invent light switches!

Then you won't have to disconnect the transformer to stop the transformer power drain for your ceiling lights Lewis!

Put a 230V on/off switch next to the door of the room and that would surely stop the transformer drawing watts out of the electricity supply.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

assuming your electrician has run the pre transformed supply to the light switch and not the post transformed low voltage.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

You've never rewired house lights have you dkjd.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

Since Lewis is talking about ceiling spotlights he probably means an arrangement where multiple lights are controlled with one switch. Low voltage ceiling lights usually have one transformer per light and all of these transformers will be controlled by one switch. In this case the switch would carry 240v to all transformers when switched on.

So, in the vast majority of cases, the idea of wasting power by having low voltage ceiling lights is garbage - when they're off they're off (transformers and lights).

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Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

I seriously hope you never have either.

The light switch on the wall switches the mains voltage. The transformer(s) are connected after the switch. If your switches are switching the low voltage you would also need to provide a means of isolating the transformer.

The only time the switch doesn't directly switch the mains voltage is when the lights are controlled by some sort of automation system then the switches control the controller which controls the lights but this kind of setup isn't common in a domestic setting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We need to invent light switches!

Yep, I've done a fair bit of downlighting with more than one spark and I've never seen anything other than the arrangement described by jolly.

In fact, I've never seen any kit that would actually support any other arrangement. Many sparks aren't keen on working on ceiling fans with a built-in timer, as they've got a permanent live. An arrangement for downlighters that only switched the low-voltage supply would require either another switch or a permanent live - not a great idea if you can avoid it.

Must say though, downlighters must result in energy waste due to the sheer number that must be manufactured - kitchens that had used to have one fluorescent often now have up to 12 or more downlighters. And the bulbs fail with alarming regularity too. Add in those with the twist-in batton terminals that tend to take out 5amp consumer unit fuse when they go, they add up to a right pita.

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Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

One transformer per light? Are you mad?

Transformers are (or should be) rated to drive a certain number of lights, or up to a certain wattage. One transformer per 50w 12v halogen is a little.. excessive.

Also, if you've wired things to run from the transformer to the junction to the light, then please, for your and everyone else's safety, pull your damned breakers out and get a proper electrician in to do the job. Flicking the switch should turn everything off, transfomer(s) included.

That said, I have had to fix some real bodge jobs done by so-called qualified electricians before now.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

Re GU10 (and similar) downlights. Try the 240v LED versions. They're more expensive, but a 5 watt LED lamp will easily match a 50w halogen, with the advantage that you can put the palm of your hand right up against an LED downlight that's been on for an hour. No need to start driving heatsinks up into the insulation, and a tenth of the electricity cost for the same amount of light output. Not to mention the truly ridonkulous lifespan of an LED.

Awesome and win all round, really.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We need to invent light switches!

Try the 240v LED versions

Often considered it, however as it's me that buys the bulbs, but it's her that pays the electric bill...

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Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

"One transformer per light? Are you mad?"

Well if I am, presumably my two electrician friends are mad, and so is the building inspector!

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Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

"Well if I am, presumably my two electrician friends are mad, and so is the building inspector!"

Considering I've seen stuff signed off that looks like a horror story, well that wouldn't surprise me.

Didn't surprise me when it came undone a few years later too. Luckily the only thing that happened was the immersion heater stopped working. Nothing caught fire.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You've never rewired house lights have you

> One transformer per light? Are you mad?

No, just sensible. If one of my transformers blows (which whilst not happening on a daily basis isn't exactly unheard of), it'll take out one light, not a whole bunch of them, so I can get away without fixing it for at least a week. I also know exactly where to look for it.

Every spark I've seen does it with one per downlighter.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

High power LED lights certainly need heatsinking, in fact that can be slightly problematic at times - nothing you wouldn't have to face with filament bulbs but which can be difficult to work around once the "no heatsink" myth gets established somewhere.

There are other issues too - colour fidelity for a start. Unlike filament bulbs which emit a continuous spectrum LED lights emit three spot wavelengths and that is all, causing all manner of subtle colour effects. You only need a couple of occasions where e.g. the wrong resistor is chosen because a purple colour band appears to be brown, and saving a few pennies in electricity looks like a VERY false economy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We need to invent light switches!

As many have pointed out, it's not the transformers for the lights that are at fault (and a required by buliding regs e.g. for bathroom SELV lights) but the bulbs themselves.

Take my bathroom for example: 4 x 35w 12v halogens with SELV transformers, they produce the same amount of light as the 20w strip shaving light above the mirror.

Some people install these downlights in their lounges, usually ten or more, and usually 50w each, that's a lot of power.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We need to invent light switches!

I got some GU10 LED bulbs for my kitchen. They've got three LEDs in each, part of the casing is the heatsink, done in a really pleasing to look at kind of way, crucially the fit properly into the lamps and were only six quid. Oh and they're so bright and so white that you almost have to wear sunglasses, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

Also, your room doesn't feel like a damn furnace in summer, I presume. My kitchen has three halogen track lights and they warm the damn place up at least four degrees, feels like. Unfortunately I can't find any LEDs that'll work in the head units...

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Re: We need to invent light switches!

I have. And last I checked, any light transformer is located at the connection to the mains, as they're designed to take on the same wires as a standard incandescent light base. It's the transformer that then feeds the low voltage to the lights themselves.

So when you flick the switch, you're engaging the transformer, which in turn kickstarts the light. Similarly, cut the switch, you cut power to the transformer, so there's no way it can draw power while it's off (unless they can demonstrate how a transformer can draw mains current across an open circuit). In any event, those transformers only draw extra power only during the startup phase. Once it's maintaining, it's a rather efficient system. I once heard that switching on and off constantly was also the best way to go for such fixtures, since the switch-on would only consume the same amount of power as having the light steadily on for around 23 seconds or so.

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Unhappy

Re: We need to invent light switches!

I've been playing with these LED's for a couple of years now.

the stated equivalent wattage is generally way off the mark. So I've got 8 lights in my kitchen, two sets of four. Four halogens and four LED's. The LED's are staggeringly dim compared to the 50w halogens and cost 10x as much.

I've tried various types, but the people selling them as I say, are exagerating their capabilities and shopuld be taken out and shot.

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Alert

Re: We need to invent light switches!

For those trying (and those disappointed by) LED GU10s or MR16s, go for the warm white versions.

It is down to how we perceive the light. The same intensity of a 'warm white' will appear brighter than a 'cool white'.

Someone took this advice with some scepticism and changed the GU10 LEDs in a lift car - the difference was substantial - looking even brighter than the original halogens.

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Warm fuzzy feeling

I assume all this 'wasted' energy used by devices on standby is warming my house up and saving on my heating costs - so for about half the year it's doing even less harm (although if one ran air con in the warm weather, should such a thing ever occur again in the UK then perhaps there would be an additional cost during that time).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Warm fuzzy feeling

Well yes and no - it's not very targeted - a transformer in your loft is just heating your roof space and even in other areas it will generate heat but maybe not when you need it (middle of the night / when you are out) or actually generate heat when you want the room cooler!

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Anonymous Coward

Rumble Tyer

The one that annoys me is the tumble dryer.

We go round unplugging things whose standby is around 5mW, then stuff thngs back in the tumble dryer for another two hours if they are 'a bit damp'

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Boffin

actually

If they really wanted to make a difference to UK leccy consumption, they should make CHP systems mandatory for all houses.. when the tech is ready of course. take a look at these guys for example

http://www.cerespower.com/

installing one of these will save far more leccy than worrying about standby power or hair furtling devices

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Re: actually

How exactly do CHP systems save electricity? Changing the origin is one thing, saving another.

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Re: actually

Interesting link,

need convincing that the electricity bill will be reduced more than the gas bill will be increased though

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Re: actually

CHP uses gas like a conventional boiler. However it turns the gas into leccy with via the fuel cell with heat being a waste product.. but here's the clever bit, that waste heat is used to heat your water for central heating. so you use the same amount as gas you would normally, but you're generating free(ish) leccy at the same time.

Overall it makes more efficient use of your gas that any conventional boiler can, and with leccy from the grid being much more expensive than than the equivalent kWh of gas, you'll save a lot of cash overall

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Boffin

Re: actually

Reduced transmission losses between electricity generation and use.

That's the idea anyhoo.

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Re: actually

a couple of useful wikis;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogeneration

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_combined_heat_and_power

CHP systems are already used commercially to reduce energy bills, they just haven't made the domestic market yet

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CHP is a snare!

Not convinced. Not at all convinced. Waste heat is not free, small installations are desperately inefficient, and the assumption that you can sell the electricity when you want the heat is rash. (That is, you may get a feed-in tariff, but it's not necessarily economically efficient.)

I would have thought a big gas turbine station driving a three-fold electric heat pump would be more efficient in gas terms. And when we do convert to nukes, of course it goes completely carbon free with no retrofit.

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Trollface

Re: CHP is a snare!

Always nice to see such scientific well reasoned arguments based in fact :-p

if you look at the pattern of boiler useage its typically in the winter when people are at homes, with the lights on, TV/kettle on etc..so you don't necessarily need a good feed in tariff to see the benefits.

There are plenty of studies to show CHP will reduce energy consumption in the domestic environment, Ceres have a few on their website.

with regards to centralised generation, take a look at this part of their website

http://www.cerespower.com/ProductOverview/CHPOverview/

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I like the idea, but...

"and with leccy from the grid being much more expensive than than the equivalent kWh of gas"

For now.

Diesel used to be cheaper than petrol. Then lots of people bought diesel. Oh, lookit what the fuel companies went and did!

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Re: I like the idea, but...

It seems to have escaped your notice that a higher demand for a product - where, as in the case of refined fuels, production is limited by capacity - will result in higher prices.

If you don't care for the price of diesel fuel, go back to gasoline.

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Boffin

Re: actually

As your statements will show, a kilowatt-hour of gas is cheaper than a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Since all the increased gas consumption gets turned into electricity (an engine is basically a device for turning fuel into heat, with some kinetic energy as a minor by-product), every kilowatt-hour of electricity you're getting from the CHP comes at the price of a kilowatt-hour of gas.

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Boffin

Re: CHP is a snare!

You don't need a fuel cell. A small Diesel engine will do fine, coupled up to a suitable alternator, rectifier and grid-synchronous inverter (at this scale it's easier to sync up your crests and troughs with the ones from the grid in the electrical domain, than in the mechanical domain). The water jacket of the engine is plumbed in place of your old central heating boiler.

You can run the thing on waste vegetable oil. Even if the oil needs to be processed, you don't need to pay fuel duty on the product as it is for a non-road-going application. (Technically, you can even claim back the duty you paid on fuel you used for your lawnmower / chainsaw -- but almost nobody does.)

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Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

"Always nice to see such scientific well reasoned arguments based in fact :-p"

I work for a major energy company (hence AC) and we're trying to shift things like this. But there's some dreadful downsides, the worst of which is that most gas fired micro-gen units are usually so expensive they have a sixteen year payback (even with a feed in tarriff subsidy) but only a ten year service life.

They suffer from limited efficiencies, and the subsidy is mostly from the poorer masses to middle class eco-twats, just like solar PV. There's also further knock on effects of all forms of micro-generation (solar PV included), because all the grid costs and capital costs of the standby/baseload or peaking needs have to be recovered on fewer units sold through the meter, so if micro-gen catches on, everybody else sees their bill go up, because the micro-gen users aren't properly charged for this back up. The cost of buying non-forecast power demand is ruinous, and if micro-gen users were paying what they ought, they'd find that their total costs would actually go up.

So if people want micro-gen, then don't let me stop them. But let's throw the buggers fully off grid, and make sure they pay for it themselves entirely, rather than relying on me to pay for their home generation, for their grid backup, their baseload, and their peak demand. Oh, and to avoid making the problem of NOx and SO2 emissions worse, let's hold micro gen owners to the same emissions standards that apply to big power plant.

Notwithstanding the relatively modest grid losses, the most efficient, cleanest, and most reliable form of electric power generation is centrally generated, grid despatched power. A combination of perhaps 30% nuclear and 70% CCGT would have the lowest costs and lowest emissions, and we wouldn't have the nonsense of subsidies for crap technologies like wind, solar and micro gen.

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Re: CHP is a snare!

The company selling it says it can cure a rainy day? Oh, what a surprise!

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Pint

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

AC

wow - a properly reasoned fact based argument .....

don't worry; it will never catch on.

None of the eco loons actually believe that 2+2 =4; so using rational arguments will never get you anywhere; you have to find a nice emotional argument (how many polar bears will this save ?)

Have a pint - lots of CO2 generated when you make beer (or lager).

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Boffin

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

The thing I like about the CHP fuel cell units is that you're not in fact using any more gas than you normally would to heat your home. You're getting some free* electricity in the bargain.

However, if you read the original post, I said "when the tech is ready of course". Agreed that at the moment the expense vs payback period and service life probably doesn't justify it, hence why I inserted the above comment. That will likely change they perfect the technology in the coming years.. and yes someone (the early adopters as always) will pay for that so the rest of us get the benefits in a few years time

* these are likely to be more expensive than conventional boilers so not free if you count installation cost over a conventional boiler. but you reduce your leccy bill in conpensation.. whether thats enough to compensate is open to debate :-)

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Trollface

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

I brew my own.. so even more generated mwahahaha

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Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

Yes, but the CO2 from brewing was already in the atmosphere before the barley turned it into glucose. You aren't adding more carbon into the cycle as would be the case if you were burning fossil fuels.

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