Vampire electronics on standby cost households £147 a year? Not so fast.

The BBC today reports that household electronics in standby mode—"off" but drawing power—cost British households £147 a year—about $200.

Vampire devices are electronics that drain a surprising amount of power even when they are on standby. British Gas research indicates households in the UK are spending £3.16bn annually just for the privilege of leaving vampire devices on standby. This equates to £147 a year for the average household – the equivalent of two months' electricity charges.

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

"No, you can't save £30 per year by switching off your "standby" devices," wrote Terence Eden in a post from 2021. He'll have to update the number in the title to keep up!

Every few years, a dodgy stat does the rounds claiming you can save £££ if you switch off all your gadgets at the wall. The standby mode of your TV is bleeding you dry!!!

In reality, gadgets are often charging (e.g. phones, laptops) or in constant use (e.g. wifi routers), or don't even exist (VCRs in 2022?) when "vampire" standby is invoked. Moreover, standby mode isn't as expensive as implied, especially on products made in the last decade—which is most of them. Eden tracks down the number from one claim to old research in California, but British Gas has not released the research the BBC cites today.

The story's focus on consumer electronics and consumer action is a cliché of "greenwashing" journalism. By ignoring energy's biggest users and uses and focusing on you doing your part—no matter how insignificant that part is—the public understanding of energy use is intentionally distorted.

I noticed that the only source quoted that isn't British Gas is an energy industry trade group spokeserson. "We're seeing really high price rises at the minute," she says, unhelpfully. The reporters don't seem to have made a single phone call to an engineer or technical expert, academics, activists or anyone not directly representing the energy industry. If they had, they might have been able to offer accurate information about which specific products do have serious vampire drain problems, e.g. digital oven ranges and those Keurigs that keep the water in that little uninsulated plastic reservoir hot.