Should You Unplug Elliptical When Not in Use?

Getting new equipment for your home gym is always a great thing. But, investing so much money into a piece of kit means you want it to last as long as possible. Check out our comparison guide on the best ellipticals money can buy.

It’s especially true for something like an elliptical, as these aren’t cheap. As a result, you might be wondering whether it helps to unplug your elliptical when not in use.

Should I Unplug My Elliptical When Not in Use?

There are a number of guides online regarding unplugging a treadmill, but let’s answer the question should you unplug an elliptical.

You should unplug your elliptical when not in use for several reasons. The most obvious is to save electricity, as with any electrical device. The second reason is to make your elliptical last longer, as unplugging improves its lifespan.

In this article, we’ll explain why it’s worth completely unplugging your elliptical (and, of course, other gym equipment) when you’re not using it.

Turn Off or Unplug?

As you probably know, all electric gym devices have an on/off switch. This is enough, right?

Not necessarily. When you turn your elliptical off, whether it is a front drive or rear drive elliptical, it still has some power running through it. It’s the same with almost any electrical device. Rather than completely powering down, they essentially go into standby mode.

If your elliptical has any LEDs that remain on, the power needs to come from somewhere. Even those without any obvious reasons to be powered will still have some electricity running through them.

To stop this, you simply unplug your elliptical from the wall socket. Of course, if you live somewhere like the UK, which has switches on the outlets, you can turn these off instead.

There’s still no harm pulling the plug out of the socket, though.

turn off plug

Benefits of Unplugging Your Elliptical

We’ve already covered the most important benefits above in brief, but let’s dive a bit deeper into why unplugging your elliptical is beneficial.

Cheaper Bills

As mentioned, unplugging your elliptical means it’s completely turned off and has no electricity flowing through it. Doing so saves money on your electricity bills.

Granted, it won’t be much, but every little helps.

Look at it from an eco-friendly perspective, too. It’s essentially wasted energy because no one benefits from it being used. So, turning off your machine will reduce your carbon footprint, even if only a little bit.

how to unplug elliptical

Improved Lifespan

If there’s no power running through your machine, there’s simply no way it can malfunction. You might not expect anything to go wrong while a device is turned off, but it can happen.

For example, a power surge might cause your elliptical to break down, which can be expensive to fix. Unplugging it just avoids this problem altogether.

Of course, this falls under standard maintenance of any piece of gym equipment. We discuss properly maintaining and how to care of your elliptical in more detail below.

It’s Safer

It’s a bulky piece of gym equipment which is one of the disadvantages of elliptical trainers. If you own one, you’re probably familiar with the general safety concerns associated with it.

These become even more of a concern around children who might not know how to operate the machine correctly. Being able to turn it on easily means they won’t be far away from an injury.

Unplugging it prevents this from happening, or at least reduces the chances. If you want to be as safe as possible, look for one with pedal locks. These prevent the elliptical from moving at all when not in use.

Do Power Strips Help?

For preserving the lifespan of your elliptical, a power strip will make no difference. They’re extensions of existing wall sockets and come with all the same benefits and drawbacks.

So, if you use a power strip or extension cord to power your elliptical, either unplug the strip from the wall outlet or the machine from the strip. It makes very little difference.

You might have heard of surge protectors and wonder whether these help. A surge protector contains a fuse that blows if the power strip receives a voltage that’s high enough to damage electrical equipment.

power strip

While this does offer some benefits, it doesn’t change any of the points mentioned above. What’s more, “dirty power” – surges in voltage – is very uncommon nowadays.

Surge protectors are useful for expensive high-tech devices you leave plugged in all the time, such as computers and TVs, but they provide little benefit for other electrical machines. Although they’re not expensive, they’re not worth the investment.

Can You Use an Elliptical Without Plugging it in?

It is possible to use an elliptical without power, but you wont be able to adjust the resistance of the machine so you will be pedalling at the lowest default setting.

Some elliptical machines are battery powered so if you are lucky enough to own one of these you can use your elliptical without plugging it in. It will simply run off the power of the battery. But if you have a standard elliptical thats powered by an AC adapter you theoretically can use the machine, you just wont be able to get an intense workout as the resistance is powered by the mains.

How to Maintain an Elliptical Machine

Unplugging your elliptical when not in use is just one of many maintenance tips. Properly caring for all your home gym equipment helps it to last as long as possible and means it’s always in good condition when you want to use it.

Here are some top tips for keeping your elliptical machine fresher for longer.

maintain elliptical

Cleaning

Since COVID hit, you’ve probably become acutely aware of how to clean gym equipment. While you might not need such a rigorous schedule at home, regular cleaning does keep your elliptical functioning better for longer.

Daily cleaning:

Every day, or after each workout, wipe the machine’s handles and console down with a cloth. All you’re doing is removing sweat, so it shouldn’t need to be a thorough clean.

Plus, if you do this every day, it’s a quick and easy job.

Monthly cleaning:

Once a month, clean your elliptical down properly. Use warm water with some dish soap or other mild detergent and a clean, lint-free cloth. 

Start from the top and work down, ensuring your cloth is damp rather than wet. Clean down the footplates, rollers, handles and housing.

Just to be safe, use a dry cloth or wet wipe on the console.

cleaning an elliptical

6-monthly cleaning:

Every 6 months, remove your elliptical trainer’s plastic cover and clean inside. It’s best done with a vacuum cleaner, providing you’re careful not to knock any of the components.

You simply want to remove any dust or dirt that’s built up in the machine.

If you’re not using your elliptical every day, consider investing in a cover for it. It helps prevent too much dust from building up while it’s not in use.

Inspections and Parts Maintenance

Your elliptical trainer likely came with specific lubricant to use on its moving parts. Apply this as often as the directions state, and don’t use any other household lubricants.

Your elliptical’s lubricant is likely lithium- or silicone-based, whereas most household ones are oil-based. These can damage plastic parts, causing your trainer to break down.

Daily inspection:

Before using your elliptical trainer, and even before plugging it in, perform a quick check. Make sure there are no loose screws or obvious malfunctions.

If anything looks loose, tighten using a manual screwdriver rather than a power tool.

Monthly inspection:

Once a month, you’ll want to check your elliptical trainer over thoroughly for loose parts. Moving machines vibrate, causing screws to loosen over time. Don’t be concerned if things are loose, it’s completely normal.

Here’s a great video on how to do routine maintenance on your elliptical:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iRvHXh22ko

Review the assembly instructions, as these will highlight areas where screws might come loose. Again, tighten with a manual screwdriver.

Check the plastic casing, console cover, power cord, and moving parts for signs of wear or damage. While few of these will stop you from using the machine, it’s best to keep an eye on anything that looks like it’s wearing out.

6-monthly inspection:

As with the cleaning schedule, you’ll want to do a more thorough inspection of the parts, particularly if you are disassembling your elliptical. In fact, it can be helpful to do this when cleaning, as you’re already taking the casing off.

Check the stride operation and belt drive in particular. The belts last a long time, but it’s best to catch them early and replace them when you can. It helps to reduce the stress put on the other parts of the machine.

Your manufacturer’s warranty might state other steps you need to take during maintenance. Be sure you follow these, as you can void your warranty by ignoring them.

Conclusion

Prolonging the lifespan of your elliptical trainer involves a lot of work, but it starts with unplugging after each use. Doing so reduces the chances of power-related faults and saves you some money.

With the right maintenance, an elliptical machine can last a very long time. While it’s quite a large financial investment, it’ll save you money in the long run compared to going to the gym.

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An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!