When nobody is home (or you're all asleep), you could be forgiven for thinking that you're not racking up a massive energy bill. However, new research has revealed that even when it's empty, the typical home is costing its owners between 1p and 6p an hour in energy - which works out at up to £526 a year.
So who is spending this money? Do you have ghosts?
Ghost spendingThe researchers from All About Money passed a energy meter round a number of different households to assess "base use". Base use was defined as when all lights and appliances in the house were switched off (for example at night). The lowest "base level" usage found was 1p per hour, the highest 6p per hour.
They concluded that the appliances which are on all the time - plus chargers and gadgets on standby - face the lion's share of the blame.
AppliancesA typical fridge-freezer costs around 8p per day to run, while a broadband router costs 3p and a fish tank heater costs around 24p. That may not sound like a lot, but those three appliances alone add up to £7.44 a month, or £87.60 a year, to energy bills.
Ian Williams of All About Money commented: "Our homes are getting increasingly cluttered with electrical items which are designed to be left on all the time. Alongside the obvious fridge and freezer, there's broadband equipment, clocks, radios and other gadgets. Whilst many of these draw little power, taken together it adds up. On top of this, homes often have a profusion of chargers for smartphones, cordless tools, laptops and tablets which are often left running for hours."
Some of the items using energy in the homes it checked were:Fridge
Two TVs on standby
Two digi-boxes / Freeview boxes
Games console on standby
Handheld drill on charge
Cordless vacuum cleaner on charge
Four mobile phones on charge
Cordless landline phone on charge
Three clock radios / alarms (and two other electric clocks - on the oven and microwave)
One laptop on charge, one Kindle and one iPad
A TV aerial signal booster
An iPod dock on standby (with its own wireless router)
Three electric toothbrushes on charge
Ian Williams added: "Our data shows that the cost of 'forgotten items' such as burglar alarms, clocks and fish tanks can actually really add up over time - in some cases adding up to hundreds of pounds a year."
"It's a curse of Western society that many of us don't realise the more things we plug in, the more it's likely to cost over time - even when we're not actually using some of those items."
What can you do?It's a reminder that we should pay more attention to the things we leave running in our home - and whether we really need them to be on all the time. Of course, it's tricky to rule out the cost of a fridge freezer, but how many of us leave gadgets on charge long after they are ready to go? And how many of us are guilty of plugging in a shiny new gadget with an electric clock that is no use to man nor beast?
But what do you think? What eats the energy in your home? And is there anything you can do abut it? Let us know in the comments.