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Pulling the Plug on Energy Waste: A Guide to Efficient Consumer Electronics

Pulling the Plug on Energy Waste: A Guide to Efficient Consumer Electronics thumbnail

The typical American household owns about 25 gadgets–TVs, phones, video game consoles, cable boxes, computers, and other consumer electronics–many of which waste energy by continuing to draw power even when they’re off, or in stand-by mode. All those gadgets waste about several billion dollars worth of electricity each year, nationwide. According to the U.S Department of Energy, 10 percent of your electric bill stems from items that you aren’t even using.

As we approach the height of the holiday (and gadget-shopping) season, it’s good to know that pulling the plug on this energy waste is getting a lot easier, thanks to federal efficiency standards and the work of people like my colleague Noah Horowitz, an energy efficiency expert, who works with manufacturers to turn their products from energy hogs into energy-sippers. As a result, we have video game consoles that are 50 percent more efficient than they were a few years ago; 55-inch TVs that cost only about a dollar a month to operate; and pretty soon, thanks to a new California law, highly efficient battery chargers so that our battery powered devices won’t waste two-thirds of their energy as heat, and will stop drawing power when a battery is full.

Making energy-smart purchases and using your new gadgets more efficiently will help cut down on energy waste and save you money. Noah recently made some excellent energy-saving suggestions for consumers in his Green Electronics Holiday Survival Guide.

As a rule of thumb, look for the Energy Star logo when you’re shopping. Any product bearing the Energy Star label meets EPA standards for energy efficiency, and will use less energy–and so will cost less to operate–than comparable models.

LED TVs Are More Efficient

Televisions last about 10 years, so getting a more efficient model can actually knock a couple hundred dollars off the real cost of a new TV over its lifetime. The yellow Energy Guide label, now required on every TV, makes it easy to factor in energy costs into your purchasing decision.

If you’re looking for a new flat-screen TV, LED televisions (also called LCD-LED) are 15 to 20 percent more efficient than conventional LCD TVs.

When you’re setting up your new TV, pick the “home” or “standard” setting, rather than the overly bright “vivid” or “retail” setting, which will make your TV consume 15 to 30 percent more power. Choosing the right setting could save you $50 to $100 over the lifetime of your TV.

Video Game Consoles Make Streaming Expensive

If you want to stream videos on your TV, consider an internet-ready model or add an external Roku or Apple TV streaming box.  If you can, avoid using your video game consoles such as an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 to stream movies as they consume up to 30 times more energy.

Speaking of video game consoles, they can consume as much energy per year as a new refrigerator if you forget to turn them off when you are done playing. The good news is that a new auto power-down feature is available that will put your box into a very low-power sleep state after a period of inactivity. Manufacturers are starting to ship their devices with auto power-down enabled, but YOU need to confirm this selection during set up. You can also turn on this feature in older devices as well. Enabling auto-power down could save you about $60 a year so please dig through the set up menus and make sure auto power down is on..

Tablets vs Laptops vs Desktops: Buy Small for Energy Savings

Portable electronics are designed to be more efficient, in order to prolong battery life. A tablet can use ten times less energy than a laptop, and 35 times less than a desktop. Figure out what your needs really are, and buy small.

Recycle Old Electronics at Best Buy or Staples

Finally, don’t forget to recycle your old electronics. Americans get rid of more than 2 million tons of electronic gadgets every year–about 140,000 computers and 416,000 mobile devices every day, according to the EPA. A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to recycle old electronics. Best Buy will take just about any gadget, no matter where and when you bought it, and recycle it for you, for free, using certified e-Steward recyclers. Staples has a similar program, although they don’t take televisions.

Choosing more efficient gadgets and picking the right settings will reduce energy waste and could shave hundreds of dollars off your electric bills Nationwide, we’ll save billions of dollars in energy costs. That’s a holiday bargain everyone can enjoy.



5 Comments on "Pulling the Plug on Energy Waste: A Guide to Efficient Consumer Electronics"

  1. Dave Thompson on Mon, 24th Dec 2012 12:01 am 

    By unplugging and picking up an old fashioned
    book, game, or musical instrument the electricity usage is……………ZERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. BillT on Mon, 24th Dec 2012 1:05 am 

    Dave, you are telling the mind-controled sheeple that they should NOT consume all this electronic crap, and you are correct. Imagine what you would save, in not only energy but purchasing price, if you didn’t even buy this junk in the first place?

    I bought my grandson, age 8, a pair of gyroscopes, a metal slinky and a mouth organ from an on-line company. I spent less than $40 including shipping. Nothing requires batteries, plugs, or replacement because of obsolescence. He can save them for his kids to enjoy, even if they are living in a cave. These are the toys I grew up with, before electronics was a common word.

    We are wasting our lives consuming stuff we don’t need. Earning the money to do it. And then worrying how we will manage when we no longer have income to consume anything, or anything left to consume.

  3. Sharpie on Mon, 24th Dec 2012 3:42 am 

    Looks as though the U.S. economy backed itself into a corner and cannot survive without mindless consumption. What a shame.

  4. ken nohe on Wed, 26th Dec 2012 11:39 am 

    Here’s an idea: Why don’t machines tell you how much electricity they use in real time? Then you can compare it to expected use and average use of similar machine. We can of course “gamify” the whole process to make it more fun. Might save a few Gigawatts. (but it won’t save civilization, although that is not the purpose here.)

  5. econ101 on Wed, 26th Dec 2012 2:35 pm 

    The problem of the US economy is due in large part by government policies that are far too generous to anybody willing to take advantage of them. We have half the country going to the grocery store with no money. the other half are paying the way. We have immigration policies that are draning local and state budgets because of the huge welfare burden brought here by those people and the refusal of those in charge to make reasonable policies based on the idea of self reliance and personal responsibility. People like Billet are prime examples of the old America: self reliance and personal ambition played out to live their lives the way they choose without governemtn interference. These are admirale qualities that are shamed and shunned by an American government not interested in a strong america, only an america that continues to keep them in power. Its all about politics. If you want to change the world these polices ruining this country and others need to be changed. Even our poplulation problem would be greatly reduced if folks were required to work or produce.

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