Unplugging appliances could pre-empt blackout

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Unplugging appliances could pre-empt blackout

The government raised awareness of the need to curtail electricity use by organizing its first-ever public blackout drill yesterday, but the country’s reserve could be further cushioned by minimizing the amount of power drained by having appliances on standby, the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) said.

When electrical appliances are powered off but still plugged in, the meter keeps on ticking. According to the report by KERI, which was released last Thursday based on its examination of 105 households, the cumulative cost of this wasted energy nationwide is 420 billion won ($364 million) a year.

The institute said this causes each household to waste 209 kilowatt-hours a month on average, or 6.1 percent of its total consumption of electricity. In monetary terms, this translates as a 24,000 won loss each year, or 420 billion won for all households.

KERI added that if all households unplugged their electrical appliances, the nation could idle an entire thermoelectric power plant of 500 megawatts.

KERI said set-top boxes, which are used to receive signals for satellite or cable broadcasts, turned out to be the worst offender in terms of gobbling up energy while on standby, wasting 12.3 watts. This is 10 times higher than a regular TV.

Other frequently-used home appliances such as rice cookers (3.5 watts) and computers (2.6 watts) are in the middle band of power-wasters.

Nonetheless, KERI said the nation has made significant advances in the last nine years in terms of taking responsibility for its energy needs. One of its reports dating back to 2003 put the average amount of standby power used per household at 306 kilowatt-hours, about 45 percent higher than this year.

It said the power wastage for TVs, DVDs, rice cookers and audio systems has diminished dramatically, but boilers and stand-alone air conditioning units have failed to keep pace as they have become increasingly larger with more functions.

Although the average number of electronic appliances per household has increased from 18.5 to 23.9 over the same period, KERI said, it draws inspiration from the fact that standby power has dropped due to technological innovations.

“Our research showed that more than 80 percent of electronic devices in the market nowadays consume less than 1 watt of standby power a year,” said Kim Nam-kyun, the head of KERI’s power semiconductor research center.

“Manufacturers of electronic devices are making continued efforts to improve this, as a result of the government’s policy to keep appliances within this range.”

He said a “good plan” is needed for built-in electrical and networked appliances at new apartments.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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