Vampire devices: How much electric your gadgets use while switched off

A kitchen with electrical appliances on the sides
(Image credit: Getty)

If you're trying to cut your energy bills, distinguishing your vampire devices from the ones that can be left switched on without racking up your electricity bill is a good place to start.

The best way to find out if your specific devices are energy vampires is by using an electricity usage monitor but the more affordable ones, like this one by Mecheer on Amazon, don't tend to be able to pick up readings for devices on standby mode. 

They're great while items are in use or for larger appliances but only far more advanced monitors tend to be able to pick up these smaller readings. And spending the money on one of those will eat into any savings you can potentially make by switching the vampires off at the plug, which defeats the whole point of identifying the energy vampires in the first place.

But you can still get a rough idea from this article for which devices tend to be vampires, what the clues are and which are innocent bystanders. We also share some energy saving tips so you can cut down your vampire energy usage without taking away too much from your appliances' ease of use.

What are vampire devices?

Vampire devices are those that drain your home of electricity when not actually in use. The classic example is that of a television when in standby mode. Despite it not being switched on, the little red light needs powering as well as powering the TV's ability to turn on when you press the remote. As such, this will therefore draw on electricity from your home when not actually in use unless you switch it off at the plug socket or TV hard 'off' button (which is increasingly difficult to find on modern TVs now). 

While one television on standby mode might not seem like much, if you have several devices all doing this 24 hours a day, with electricity prices at an average 34p per kWh right now (and due to increase in April 2023), the pennies start racking up.

British Gas, UK's largest supplier of electricity, claims consumers could save as much as 23% on their energy bills if they switch off vampire devices. And with energy prices set to rise again, this saving could potentially be even more. 

The electricity giant also conducted a survey on vampire devices, finding that 41% of Britons only occasionally switch their vampire devices off. Interestingly, 72% of 54 to 65 year olds surveyed said they'd happily switch off vampire devices to save money but only 32% of 18 to 24 year olds would do the same.

Why do vampire devices use energy when turned off?

Vampire devices use a small amount of electricity while in standby mode to be able to fire up into action at the touch of a button. This can be convenient for being able to use a remote control or being able to use an appliance or device immediately. But the flip side is that, it costs money in "vampire energy" or "phantom energy" for the comfort of being able to do this.

Which appliances are vampire devices?

Generally speaking, any appliance that has a clock, digital screen, or any kind of standby function or light, is likely to be an energy vampire, inadvertently running up your electricity bills. 

In our list of vampire devices below, we've included how much vampire energy the device has been reported as using where the information was available. Where costs have been used, this is based on the current average 34p per kWh electricity cost.

  • Televisions These are well known vampire devices, so much so that the information about how much vampire energy a model uses, is often handily included in the product specifications. For example, this Samsung ultra HD 43-inch smart TV on John Lewis is listed as using 0.5 watts (presumably per hour) while in standby mode, while this enormous 83-inch Sony Bravia also uses 0.5 watts despite the screen size difference. You can also find out how much electricity does a TV use in our guide
  • Speakers and amplifiers If you have sound equipment for your television, music or games console and it is left on when not in use, this will still use electricity. Energy consultant Rob Bohm, from CLPM, told MailOnline this could be as much as 20 watts an hour, which over the course of time, if never switched off and simply left on standby, could cost around £60 a year (updated cost figure based on 34p electricity price).
  • Dishwasher If it has a little red standby light then your dishwasher is still going to be sucking energy while holding dirty dishes waiting for you to turn it onto its wash cycle.
  • Washing machine and tumble dryer Again if there's a red standby light or a digital display telling you it has finished its wash cycle, then it's probably drawing energy.
  • Oven with clock According to non-profit group the Local Energy Alliance Program over in the US, which tested out a number of appliances with a energy usage monitor designed to measure smaller electricity usages, ovens with clocks draw energy despite not being in use.
  • Microwave with clock was also among the kitchen appliances that the Local Energy Alliance tested and found it drained energy despite not doing anything other than waiting to be used.
  • Coffee machine with clock While a clock might be a nice feature to get your coffee machine set to make coffee when you wake up, it comes with a cost as it's another vampire device.
  • Electric toothbrush charger A rather niche one here, but according to the Local Energy Alliance Program, an electric toothbrush charger that is still plugged into the wall but not charging a toothbrush will still continue to use energy. As is the case, if the toothbrush is in the holder but fully charged.
  • Laptops in sleep mode These use energy despite not being in use, which might have been something you suspected given that when left for long enough in sleep mode, they often run out of battery. Of course, if the laptop is plugged in on sleep mode instead, it'll suck the electricity out of your plug sockets rather than drain the battery. Rob Bohm claims this could be around 15 watts per hour, equating to £45 a year (updated cost figure).
  • Laptop chargers still use energy when plugged into the wall socket but not a laptop computer, according to the Local Energy Alliance Program. They specifically tested a Hewlett Packard laptop charger to find it still drew electricity despite not being used to charge a laptop. The same however was not true for Apple laptop chargers, they reported.
  • DVD player If it has a standby red light, it's going to be drawing electricity even if it hasn't been used for weeks (or years now?).
  • Games console These are one of the worst offenders of wasteful vampire energy, according to Rob Bohm. According to This Is Money commissioned research in 2019, the UK's combined vampire energy bill for games consoles is as much as £231 million a year. And with energy prices soaring, this figure could now be far higher.
  • Printers continue to use energy when plugged in on standby waiting for you to send something to it. Energy consultant Rob Bohm with CLPM says printers with LED screens can suck as much as  £10 of energy a year simply from being left on (pre-October 2022 price rise figure).
  • Phone left on charger While some phone chargers might stop drawing energy when a phone isn't plugged into it (see below), this isn't the case when the phone is plugged in but fully charged as this will continue to use energy, according to British Gas's energy expert Marc Robson, who claims removing your phone once fully charged could save you as much as £60 a year (pre-October 2022 price rise figure).
  • Chargers in general If it isn't in use it'll probably still be sucking energy from your home, says Rob Bohm.

Which appliances are unlikely to be vampire devices?

Appliances that do not suck up any energy despite remaining plugged into your wall socket, tend to be the ones where there is a manual switch you press to spur it into action. There's a slight caveat to that of course, in that if the basic appliance has additional ultra-technological features, like a digital screen or digital timer.

These typically include:

  • Kettles are appliances that automatically switch off and require you to manually switch on to start using electricity. Some will claim these to be energy vampires but in reality they only use energy when in use, meaning technically they are not phantom energy users. That's unless you have a kettle with a clock, digital screen, or standby functionality (for instance a keep warm function). If you want to know how much electricity does a kettle use when being boiled, it's around 7p for a standard full kettle.
  • Blenders do not use vampire energy when not in action, according to tests by the Local Energy Alliance Program. They measured a Kitchen Aid blender and found zero consumption when plugged in but not blending anything.
  • Toaster A simple toaster only draws energy when in use. As with many of the appliances and devices in this list, if you start getting more fancy with digital screens and inbuilt clocks then this may change the analysis.
  • Apple laptop chargers don't use any electricity when plugged in to a socket but not an Apple computer, according to tests with a Watts Up Pro power meter (now sadly discontinued).
  • Apple iPhone chargers also didn't suck any electricity when not powering up an iPhone.
  • Table lamps When turned off at the switch, your run of the mill table lamp does not use any electricity despite the plug still being connected.

A man sits at a dining table working on his computer

Your laptop will be a vampire if left on charge while in sleep mode (Image credit: Getty)

How can I reduce vampire energy?

The simple answer is to switch your vampire devices off at the plug when not in use. However, the practicalities of doing this can make using some of these devices more awkward. Our television example is a good one here, whereby you'd have to get up out of bed to switch it off at night and out of bed again to turn it on in the morning to watch the morning news for instance. This is especially annoying, if the house is still cold from being turned off overnight to save energy.

The alternative option is to invest in smart plugs that can be turned on an off on your smart phone. They can be relatively inexpensive, like this four-pack for £32.99 on Amazon. These can also be operated through your Google Home or Amazon Alexa for addition ease of use. 

You can also get a smart power strip for turning off several kitchen appliances at once, like this six port power strip with four USB ports, which is currently on offer for £36.54 on Amazon. 

Smart plugs are handy for other reasons too, like using with hair straighteners so you can always turn off the plug remotely if you are worried about having left them on, or making sure all lamps are turned off before going to sleep at night as well as applying a timer to devices that might need turning off after family members have fallen asleep (televisions, lights etc).

Longer-term, if you want to streamline your energy usage, it might be a good idea when replacing your devices, to opt for those without digital screens, clocks or any touch screen functionality. These tend to draw more electricity for the functions to work.

Amy Willis

Amy spent over a decade in London editing and writing for The Daily Telegraph, MailOnline, and before moving to East Anglia where she began renovating a period property in rural Suffolk. During this time she also did some TV work at ITV Anglia and CBS as well as freelancing for Yahoo, AOL, ESPN and The Mirror. When the pandemic hit she switched to full-time building work on her renovation and spent nearly two years focusing solely on that. She's taken a hands-on DIY approach to the project, knocking down walls, restoring oak beams and laying slabs with the help of family members to save costs. She has largely focused on using natural materials, such as limestone, oak and sisal carpet, to put character back into the property that was largely removed during the eighties. The project has extended into the garden too, with the cottage's exterior completely re-landscaped with a digger and a new driveway added. She has dealt with de-listing a property as well as handling land disputes and conveyancing administration.