Quick! Do a mental scan of your house or apartment and guess the number of products you have that are continuously drawing power? Well, the typical home has 40! Chances are, quite a few of those are in the consumer electronics category. And they may be eating up a larger chunk of your energy bills than you think.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), energy used for heating and cooling, lighting products, and major appliances has decreased by about 10 percent since 2005. We can point to several reasons for this, including wider availability, affordability and broad consumer adoption of more efficient models.
However, energy used for consumer electronics and small appliances has increased by 20 percent since 2005. The most obvious culprits, such as TVs and PCs, account for a lot of that increase. The largest, high resolution, TVs can use as much electricity each year as a new conventional refrigerator, or roughly 500 kWh/year! Just over 20 years ago, the average American home had two TV sets. Today, more than half of homes have three or more TVs. Add the fact that many of those old TVs are replaced by big, flat-panel versions that use double the energy, and you can start to see the energy use pile up. This increased energy use means an increase of greenhouse gas emissions in our environment, which contributes to the effects of climate change.
Consumer electronics and small appliances are responsible for 30 percent of household electricity use. These include entertainment products such as TVs, DVD/VCR players, home audio equipment, computers and power supply units. It also includes small appliances such as coffee makers, microwaves and other small cooking appliances.
It’s unlikely that our must-have gadgets are going away anytime soon, so using less of them is probably not the most feasible solution. But there are a few things you can do to shrink your energy use, such as:
- Choose ENERGY STAR when you can. You can find the ENERGY STAR label on products in over 60 different categories for your home, including electronics and office equipment. Visit www.energystar.gov/mostefficient for TVs recognized as ENERGY STAR’s Most Efficient. These are the most efficient products among those that qualify for the ENERGY STAR and represent the leading edge in energy efficient products.
- Plug electronics and computer equipment into a power strip with an on/off switch and turn it off when you are not using the products. This will ensure that the products are not using electricity.
- Activate power management features on computers and monitors to place them in a low-power sleep mode after a set time of inactivity to reduce power consumption. Simply hitting a key on the keyboard or moving the mouse awakens them in seconds.
- Turn off computers and monitors if you will be away for more than two hours. It doesn’t harm your computer and will save energy.
- If a laptop will meet your needs, choose one over a desktop. Laptops are 2.5-3 times more efficient than desktop computers.
- Reduce the brightness on your television screen to cut its energy use by as much as 30 percent. Newer televisions have multiple screen settings and options that can affect their power consumption. Set your television to the “home” or “standard” setting, to help use less energy.
- Unplug battery chargers or power adapters when equipment is fully charged or not connected to the charger. This helps avoid energy waste.
- Turn off game consoles (and don’t use them as DVD players). Many of today’s video game consoles are left on all the time, drawing between 1,000 – 1,300 kWh a year. Turning these devices off after use can lower those levels to no more than 120 kWh each year! And don’t use your game console as a DVD player – they can use as much as 24 times the power of a stand-alone DVD player!
- Visit energystar.gov for the latest energy-saving news, products and ideas for your home.
Being more energy-efficient with the products we use in our daily lives not only saves us money, it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessens the effects of climate change.