Saving power

Friday, August 4, 2006

Once upon a time, things that used electricity around the house had "on" and "off" buttons, and "off" meant no electricity was being consumed.

But today's appliances and gadgets aren't always "off" when they're "off." Instead, they are in "standby" mode. This is intended as a convenience. TV viewers want to watch their favorite programs as soon as they push the "on" button.

As pointed out in a story last Sunday, the most common household devices -- computer, TV, DVD player, microwave, telephone and security systems -- use about $80 a year even if they are never turned "on."

Many consumers who enjoy the benefits of modern conveniences are surprised to learn how much electricity is consumed by "off" appliances. Even some toasters these days are sucking energy unless they are unplugged. So is $80 a year -- or whatever amount the appliances in your house are costing -- worth it? For most of us, yes. We like having appliances that are ready to perform whenever we want them to. But with power companies like AmerenUE and the Jackson municipal power company raising rates, more consumers might start paying more attention to the hidden use of electricity.

And appliance makers might want to consider adding another button to the array of knobs on new gizmos: the "really off" button.

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