Does electricity still flow to devices when light switches are in the “off” position?
Yes and no. A light switch is really nothing more than an electrical current interrupter.
The switch itself has an electrical current running to it from your electrical box that is connected to an incoming power line. The switch also has another wire leading to a power outlet.
When you flip the switch you interrupt the incoming power to the outlet by essentially interrupting it from the main power source. The original electrical current still flows to the light switch but will not pass to the power outlet. Think of the light switch as a wall in a dam and when it’s in the off position the dam is closed and when it’s on the water or in this case the electric can flow freely.
Turning off the common offender
Want to know the quickest and easiest way to save power to lower your energy bills?
Flip the light switch to off. It really is that simple. Some of you reading this are shaking their heads and saying “no that’s not true because it’s cheaper just to leave the lights on since you aren’t creating a power surge when you turn them off and on again.”
That claim, however, is not entirely accurate.
While it is true that a small power spike gets created when you turn lights back on the spike in power is minimal. When you leave the lights on in an empty room the power being drawn to the lights even newer CFL lights is still minimal but will cost you more than flipping them on and off due to the constant power draw if just left on.
To better understand this argument a standard incandescent light bulb (60 watts) left on for an hour uses .06 kilowatts per hour (kWh). Now factor in that a typical living room has anywhere from 2 – 4 lights connected to a light switch. Multiply that number by 24 hours in a day and you can average your daily cost of leaving your lights on for 24 hours.
If you are insistent on leaving your lights on for safety or security reasons then you should consider replacing them with LED or CFL light bulbs which will typically cost 1/6th of a standard incandescent light bulb when in use.
Changing your indoor and outdoor lights to low energy alternatives is a good home improvement task to tackle during a property refurbishment.
So how much are you actually saving by turning the switches off?
A nationwide average shows that about 0.12 cents an hour per kilowatt. If you’ve upgraded to the newer energy efficient CFL bulbs the rule of thumb is if you’ll be out of a room for longer than 15 minutes turn off the lights. If you’ll be less than 15 minutes leave the light on as they’re already considered highly energy efficient.
Incandescent or standard light bulbs should be turned off any time you leave the room as they generate more heat than light. Around 90% of the electricity used to power incandescent light bulbs generate heat and 10% is used to generate light. If you’re truly conscience about saving as much money as possible then a good habit to get into would be doing a walkthrough before leaving and making sure all non-essential light switches are turned to the off position. A thorough walkthrough should take you no longer than 2 minutes. Those 2 minutes may seem like a minor inconvenience at first but once it becomes a habit it will be less of an inconvenience and more of a money saving game.