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Energy Myth of the Month: Cordless Phones  Smart Choices Archive

Energy Myth of the Month: Cordless Phones

Energy Efficiency: Appliances

Myth: Cordless telephones use less energy than conventional ones.

Fact: Cordless phones are energy vampires, according to The Daily Green. As cordless units sit in a recharging cradle, they suck up power 24/7. Replacing a cordless phone or two that you really don’t need or use each day will save you lots of energy.


Old-fashioned corded phones use a smidgen of electricity in comparison, and that comes through the phone line. Remember, too, that such phones work even in a power outage. Plus, by reverting back to one of these, you’ll be “in” with your retro look.


About 60 percent of cordless telephone energy use occurs during standby, according to testing by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, managed by the University of California. That’s why a clerk at the battery store told this writer that it’s wise to keep the phone off the cradle frequently. The battery literally gets hot when the phone is in the cradle, because of its high-energy use, he explained.


The lab says that tests show that cordless phones use 2 to 3 watts in both active and standby modes. About 60 percent of the energy use occurs during standby time.


Cordless phones, answering machines and combination units that have earned the Energy Star seal of approval perform much more efficiently than conventional units and use about one-third of the energy. That happens because of performance features such as switch-mode power supplies and “smart” chargers. 


Other considerations

According to Energy Star, there are other factors to consider when choosing telephones and answering machines, based on your needs and on being energy-wise.

  • It’s generally wise to have at least one corded phone in your home as a backup. Cordless phones usually don’t work during power outages, because they rely on household current. A corded phone usually isn’t affected by this problem.
  • Combination units (phone/answering machine) save space, simplify set-up, require fewer cables and are more portable than separate components. More importantly, they consume less energy in standby mode than having separate phone and answering machine components.
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