BBC's "Vampire electronics on standy cost households £147 a year" story is mostly bullshit

Originally published at: BBC's "Vampire electronics on standy cost households £147 a year" story is mostly bullshit | Boing Boing


yeah anyone that’s serious about conserving electricity knows that you need to obsessively turn off your unused lights while chanting “we don’t live in a lighthouse”


Or spend tons of money on fancy power strips that tell you the usage down to the watt!


There’s a joke somewhere in there at the expense of the Earth.


Vampire Grid


That’s me. I think I’m the only person in my house that’s figured out that light switches move in two directions.


I remember this making the rounds about a decade ago and had actually wondered what happened to this claim after it made a big splash. Pointing out their motivations for lying is so helpful. Sometimes it feels like life is an exercise in trying to spot the level of cons we’re falling for at any given moment. The constant level one question is always “but why would they lie about this?”


The BBC’s sole source is British Gas, a national energy giant, a company deeply interested in everyday consumers seeing themselves as the problem.

Cory Doctorow wrote more about this on-going attempt by corporations to shift the blame the other day.


The gas company, who happily sells gas for pilot lights, is discussing wasted energy?


I switched every single bulb and fixture in my house to LED so I can damn well leave all the lights on that I want and I’m actually saving money!


A few years back, a friend in Southern California went on a money saving kick, and one of things he did was to measure all of the vampire devices in his home. He turned everything “off” and checked the power draw at the meter. I don’t remember the numbers, but it was higher than expected, so he tracked down and eliminated a few surprise vampires until he was satisfied with the baseline.

A year or two later, he repeated the experiment and found that the vampire draw had more than doubled. It took him a day to find the culprit. The power company had (with his permission) installed a radio-controlled cutoff box for the pool pump. The idea was that the power company could remotely cut off the pool pump during periods of high demand. In exchange, they gave him a small discount on his electric bill.

It was difficult to measure the power draw from the power company’s cutoff box because it was hardwired and designed to be tamper resistant. But, by isolating the circuit, he was able to deduce that it was drawing something crazy like 30 or 40 Watts all the time. It cost more to power the box than the discount he received for being part of the program.

When he complained to the power company, they said that program was designed to help manage peak demand, not to save electricity. He quit the program and has since installed solar.


The percentage of gas ovens in the UK is falling year on year. Gas hobs are still a big deal but ovens not so much.

Although they are called British Gas, they are an electricity provider also. God awful company to deal with but still electricity is part of their deal.

The energy providers do need to be taking their responsibilities seriously though and not push it onto the customer to deal with.


Interesting this comes fairly recently after another similarly exaggerated expose on all the sources of waste loss in the natural gas production, distribution, and end use cycle. Guilting people for preferring gas cookstoves, gas heat, and such. Pointing out the vampire waste of pilot lights. And the shocking emissions from leaky valves, pipes, and such in our homes and in the distribution networks.

Yet if you look for independent assessments of those things, they’re insignificant just as the vampire electricity waste is.

Yes let’s definitely avoid stupid waste of any energy source. But stop exaggerating it to greenwash one industry vs another.

I actually bought one of those in an attempt to save money… imagine my surprise when I discovered that all the idle devices I plugged it into used almost no power, and I couldn’t find anything that really justified the inconvenience of pulling the plug on those standby electronics.


“Vampire Electronics on Standy”. These British town names just get weirder and weirder.

In all seriousness, modern switch mode power supplies are very efficient when there’s no load and draw very little current. Sure it adds up when you have millions of devices on the grid at once, but it’s still a drop in the bucket.


Yes. At the moment, four. Not on standby, though.


To their credit, the Guardian’s run a counter to British Gas’ bollocks here: Tech expert slays myth of energy-guzzling ‘vampire devices’ | Energy bills | The Guardian

“British Gas did not reply to requests for comment.” Funny that.



@beschizza: This “study” was blasted around US local news markets last week as well. Even my very-soon-to-be teenage son could smell that it’s complete bullshit. His reaction was intuitive, and he hasn’t even had a proper physics class yet. :woman_shrugging:


Messages to and from British Gas always take a bit to be relayed back and forth.


I remember this rumor going around a while ago in the US. We spent some time obsessively unplugging things, noticed no appreciable difference, and regained our indifference.