De-oink Your Energy-Hogging Electronics!

There’s general agreement that consumer electronics products such as TVs, stereo systems, cell phone chargers and PCs consume large amounts of energy in the modern home. Some would even call consumer electronics oinky little energy hogs. But to what extent are they?

How much energy does each piece of the electronics puzzle really consume? We can’t find a single definitive study on the subject (let us know in comments if you know of one). There’s a cool calculator tool at myGreenElectronics, but it seems a little out-of-date (analog TVs? VCRs?).

Here’s a pretty good look at flat-panel televisions and energy consumption courtesy of the Guardian. The general rule is that plasma TVs consume more energy than do LCDs, but plasma sets usually deliver a better picture. You can debate the plasma-LCD tradeoff for days. Believe us.

We can cobble together a couple of things, though. According to ecomii, more than two-thirds of the energy in a building is used for lighting, heating and cooling. According to ENERGY STAR, residential electricity use by consumer electronics products is responsible for approximately 15 percent of household electricity use. (We choose not to ponder what would be responsible for consuming the remaining 18 to 19 percent.)

Here’s the thing, though: You can limit the environmental and energy-consuming impact of your electronics in easy, convenient ways.

First, get to know “standby mode.” You might not realize it, but even when you think you’ve turned an electronics product “off,” it’s not really off. See that red light on your TV or your receiver, or the clock display (hopefully not blinking “12:00”) on another A/V device? That’s consuming power, and not just to keep the light on; it’s also eagerly sitting there, like a dog waiting for its master to return from the grocery store, waiting to get word to turn on again. That’s standby mode, and ENERGY STAR estimates that the average U.S. household spends $100 per year on it.

That’s why whenever you can, you should do two things. First, unplug electronics products when not in use, and turn off entire power strips for your home entertainment when you’re going away (of course, you might want to keep your DVR on so you don’t miss your favorite episodes. But who needs a DVR when you’ve got Hulu?). Second, seek out electronics that have earned the ENERGY STAR to reduce their energy consumption impact. The ENERGY STAR denotes that they are more energy-efficient in standby mode than other products are (although we are still awaiting a similar standard for in-use or operational mode). Lots of TVs, PCs and audio products have earned the ENERGY STAR; heck, there’s even a multi-room audio system that has earned it.

If you do, not only can you save on your energy bill, but if many people duplicate your action, it can have a significant macro effect. How much? ENERGY STAR estimates that if every average home with two TVs, three telephones and a DVD player replaced its current such products with ENERGY STAR qualified models, over 25 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be saved, which is equivalent to that of more than two million cars.

Of course, many products don’t have readily-available ENERGY STAR equivalents: power-crazy cable and satellite set-top boxes are a good example.

One last thing: unplug those portable device chargers when you’re not using them! Cell phones, BlackBerrys, iPods… you know the deal.

You don’t have to be a Luddite… but you should definitely be more energy-conscious about your electronics.

Posted by: Joe P

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2 Responses

  1. I am glad to see more and more Green articles popping up on the Internet. I really liked this one. We are devout un-pluggers ;>

    Also, when traveling, we always check Environmentally Friendly Hotels for our hotel stays. It’s a great resource if you are serious about living green.

    Lisa S.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Lisa! Also, thanks for the hotels link! I will definitely be referring to it when I book future hotel stays!

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