do smart bulbs use electric when they're off?

Do Smart Lights Use Electricity When They’re Turned Off?

Smarter Home Guide is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more here.

A penny saved is a penny earned” as the saying goes.  Most people aren’t tricking their home out with smart lights in an effort to save money, but nobody wants to throw money away.  There’s also the environmental factor to consider.

If you’re like me you’ve probably wondered, “do smart lights use electricity when turned off?”

Technically speaking, smart bulbs do use a small amount of electricity even when the power is off, but it isn’t anything you’ll notice on your electric bill. In most cases, it would amount to a penny or two per month per smart light bulb. 

This power usage is referred to as Vampire Power.

What is Vampire Power?

Also known as Standby power, vampire draw, phantom load, and ghost load, Vampire Power is a term used for a device that is using electricity even when it’s turned off.  

vampire power

Many times this phenomenon is completely unwarranted.  For instance, your cell phone charger being plugged into the wall while you’re not actually charging your phone.  

Other times, it’s quite necessary:  Your refrigerator needs to be able to monitor the temperature even when the compressor isn’t running, your T.V. needs to have a small amount of power supplied to the I.R. remote sensor to know you’re trying to turn it on, and yes your smart bulb needs to know you’re telling your Alexa Echo or Google Home hub that you’re asking to turn it on.  

Some energy vampires include:

  • Computer chargers
  • Laptop chargers
  • Cable boxes
  • DVD players
  • Video game consoles
  • Most coffee makers
  • Anything that uses a remote control
  • Anything that tells time

Standby Power is said to be responsible for 20% of the world’s electricity usage, but mandates and initiatives worldwide over the past 2 decades have brought most devices down to using 1 Watt or less of power when turned off.  This has been referred to as the 1 Watt initiative.  

Smart Bulb Energy Consumption

We’re going to go in-depth below on how much energy Smart LED Bulbs use and how that translates to your electric bill.  As we do this, not only will you see how I’ve arrived at that conclusion, but you’ll also understand which bulbs you should be using and why.  

We all know that LED bulbs save energy when compared to fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs.  In fact, they use about 75% less than incandescent bulbs.  

On the other hand, the upfront cost of purchasing smart bulbs can be up to $50 per bulb.  An incandescent at about $0.50 is about 100 times cheaper. If you’re using Philips Hue bulbs, there is an additional one-time $45 cost for the Hue Bridge to link everything together.  

Now, to be fair, you can get a smart bulb for $10-$15 that does not need a bridge.  We’re going to use an example in this price range since we’re currently trying to be cost-effective.  

Peteme makes a smart bulb that currently comes in 4 packs on Amazon for $43.99.  So, we’re going to call it $11 per bulb. They claim to save up to 80% on your electric bill and have a life of about 27,000 hours.  It produces the incandescent equivalent of a 60-watt bulb while only using 7.5 watts.  

Let’s look at the graph below to breakdown the entire cost over the lifespan of the smart light bulb compared to other bulbs.  

IncandescentFluorescentSmart LED
Bulb Price$0.50$2.00$11
Bulb Wattage60157.5
Estimated Life Span800 hours4,000 hours27,000 hours
Killowats0.060.0150.0075
Kilowatt Hours/month*10.82.71.35
Cost Per Month**$1.30$0.32$0.16
Total Cost After 12.5 Years***$211.88$61.50$35
  • *This assumes each bulb is being used 6 hours per day.
  • **Using the average kWh of $0.12. For your kWh pricing, refer to your electric bill.
  • ***Using the smart bulbs total lifespan of 27,000 hours and our assumption of 6 hours in daily usage.

As you can see, the upfront cost isn’t compensated by your reduced energy consumption very quickly.  It is, however, better over the course of time.

If we’re talking about replacing a few bulbs at a time, it’s very affordable to transition to smart bulbs for the majority of people.  Some people will go all out and replace all their bulbs.

Now, look at the cost of powering an LED bulb while powered on for 6 hours a day (which most bulbs in your house probably won’t be).  It’s only 16¢ per month per bulb.  Now how much could bulb like that possibly use when it’s turned off?

Well, thankfully someone with better tools than myself has answered that question for us.  

testing the voltage in smart bulbs with the power off

Craig Lloyd from howtogeek.com tested the Standby power consumption of 3 different smart bulbs using an electricity usage monitor.  He tested a GoControl Z-Wave, Philips Hue White and a Eufy Lumos WiFi smart bulb.  

The Phillips Hue bulb fluctuated between 0.0 and 0.3 watts.  That translates to an average of about 0.00015 kWh of power [0.15 (average wattage)/1000 = 0.00015 kWh.]

He determined that would cost him (where he pays about 15 cents per kilowatt, slightly above the average rate) 1.6 cents per month.

Then he tested the Eufy Lumos WiFi Bulb.  He had a pretty constant reading of 0.5 Watts or 0.0005 kWh.  This brings his cost up to 5.4 cents per month per Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb when not in use.

Here’s one that will knock your socks off though.  The GoControl Z-Wave Bulb fluctuated between 0.6 watts and 4.8 watts.  His readings were all over the place though so he tested it over the period of a couple of days and then averaged out his number.

His conclusion was that the bulbs average vampire wattage was about 1.6 watts or at his cost 17.9 cents per month.  Ok, this one used a lot more electricity to the others in comparison, but you’re not going to need to get a second job to make up for the difference.

So, what are the most cost-effective smart bulbs?

Well, most smart bulbs operate at about 7 to 9.5 Watts to produce the incandescent bulb equivalent of 60 watts.  Meaning that you’ll receive about the same amount of light for a 7-watt smart bulb that you would a 60-watt incandescent.  

To be completely mindful, with Phillips Hue Bulbs you’d also have to factor in the Hue Bridge that’s required to communicate with the bulbs.  

Conclusion

Smart bulbs cost a little more money upfront.  That is the cost that’s really going to make a difference.  

Do smart bulbs use electricity even when they’re turned off? Technically, yes but basically no. When it comes to considering the amount of electricity any LED bulb is using, it’s next to nothing.  Let alone when it’s turned off.  

What I would take away from this article is we’d be stepping over dollars to worry about pennies trying to cut energy costs with our LED bulbs.  One thing is for sure, old fashion incandescent lighting is way more expensive.  

You should at the very least be using fluorescent bulb. If you want to use even less energy, purchase an LED bulb.  If you want the luxury of not having to walk over to the light switch, us a smart lighting option. You could do this a few different ways.  

Check out my article on smart lighting also.  It will give you all your options from smart lamps to smart bulbs and smart switches.

Similar Posts