Britain is a "nation on standby" with households wasting up to £80 a year because they do not switch off televisions and game consoles, experts have warned.
Households across the country could make savings of £1.7 billion a year by turning off all their appliances when they are not in use - instead of leaving them on standby, the Energy Saving Trust said.
More than half of people (55%) have one or more game consoles and nearly two-fifths of those with consoles leave them on or on standby when they are not in use, an Ipsos MORI poll of more than 2,000 people found.
Three-quarters of people with a spare TV keep that on standby too, the survey found.
But leaving TVs and game consoles on permanent standby costs households £45 to £80 a year, the Energy Saving Trust said. Just leaving a single games console on standby can run up a bill of up to £30 a year in electricity.
The survey, ahead of Big Energy Saving Week - an initiative by the Energy Saving Trust, Department of Energy and Climate Change and Citizens Advice, also found that three-quarters of people (74%) were worried about energy bills.
But only half of households who have received an unexpectedly high bill check if unused appliances are switched off, the research revealed.
Article continues below
Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: "We are a nation on standby.
"Whatever your age, gender or the size of your household: our research has found millions of us are unintentionally wasting electricity when we leave our gadgets on standby. It's an easy mistake to make yet it costs us a fortune."
He added: "Televisions and games consoles are now among the primary sources of our everyday entertainment, yet when left on permanent standby they are costing £45-£80 a year.
"I'm not suggesting we get rid. I'm urging people to take back control of their appliances next week and switch off when we aren't using them."
Turn off the lights
Appliances could also be wasting people's money if they are old, with a fifth of people owning a fridge or freezer that is at least 15 years old.
Old appliances are more likely to be inefficient and to have developed faults that the owners might not be aware of, such as a faulty thermostat on a freezer which could mean it is costing £45 more a year to run than it should, the experts said.
Turning off lights when they are not needed can save £7 a year, while replacing all the remaining old-fashioned light bulbs with energy efficient ones and halogen lights with LEDs could save around £45 a year on bills.
Big Energy Saving Week aims to help householders take practical steps to cut bills by checking they are on the best deal, switching tariffs or suppliers and taking energy saving actions such as switching appliances off standby.
Switch energy supplier
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: "Consumers can make a real difference to their electricity bills by improving energy efficiency at home and Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust are there to help.
"Shopping around for the best energy deal can also make a huge difference. We've slashed the vast array of confusing tariffs, so it's now easier to compare energy prices and switching times will be halved by the end of this year.
Shopping around for cheaper gas and electricity has become far simpler since the dawn of the comparison site. You just need a handful of your past bills and 20 minutes at the computer, and you can find a new provider that the comparison sites claim can save you more than £380 a year. Unfortunately there's no guaranteeing that this provider will stay the cheapest forever, so you'll need to revisit it every six months to make sure they are still competitive.
Researchers have found that 8.8 million people rolled over their car insurance last year, missing out on savings of up to £250. Nearly half of them didn't even bother to check whether their quote from their current provider had increased from the previous year. When it comes to car and home insurance, we should all take the time to check a comparison site when we renew. It won't take more than 30 minutes and can save you hundreds of pounds.
In many instances there are discounts for people who opt for paperless billing and paying by direct debit. Unless you have a very good reason for wanting to avoid this, it's a sacrifice-free way of saving around £70 a year on your utilities.
Talking of direct debits, it's worth looking through your bank statement at all your direct debits and checking whether you take advantage of all of them. Gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, and club memberships can set you back a small fortune, and if you're not using them, it's no sacrifice to cancel the service and then cancel the direct debit.
Normally we do anything we can in order to avoid cold calls from the companies that provide our energy, TV packages, broadband and phone, on the grounds that they're trying to sell us something. However, if you call them and tell them you think you're paying too much and you're considering switching, they will start to work in your favour. You may be able to switch to a different tariff, or cut back on services you're not taking full advantage of. Sometimes they will offer a significant discount just because you have asked for it. The only word of warning is not to be talked into buying more from the provider on the assurance that it's better value.
The market is changing all the time, so the credit card or loan that suited you best when you first got it may no longer be the most suitable or the cheapest now. It's worth revisiting every six months to check whether there are new cards and deals on the market that could help you pay less interest - which could in turn help you pay off your debts faster too.
You don't have stop buying the things you like, when you can hunt for vouchers and coupons which let you buy them for less. This isn't an excuse to buy things you wouldn't otherwise consider, but it's a nice way to shave £5 off the weekly shop without changing what you buy. Likewise when you're buying anything online, before you hit the checkout, do a quick search for the name of the shop and the word 'voucher'. There are a host of websites dedicated to sharing details of current vouchers, so you could find yourself saving 10% without trying.
Cashback comes in a variety of guises, from credit cards to cashback websites, and will repay you anything from 0.5% to 4% on everything you spend. Again this doesn't mean buying from another shop, or changing what you buy, it just means getting money off all your shopping.
With a bit of effort, technology can help you save a fortune. Making phone calls over the internet to someone else with an internet-based phone service is free. Making calls to landlines, mobiles and overseas can be reduced too. Likewise if your smartphone has the ability to make video calls over the internet, then the call is free to other people with the same service. Some come with this built-in, while others will let you install an app which provides the service. You don't have to be a tech demon to save significantly and still make all the calls you used to.
If you currently pay for a satellite TV service, then take the time to think abut how you use it. If you just get it for the films and a couple of channels and you are happy to watch through an on-demand service, then there are a number of streaming services providing a cost-effective alternative.