Tatiana Schlossberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Once upon a time, there was a difference between on and off. Now, it’s more complicated: Roughly 50 devices and appliances in the typical American household are always drawing power, even when they appear to be off, estimates Alan Meier, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab.
It adds up. About a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode, according to a study of Northern California by the Natural Resources Defense Council. That means that devices that are “off” or in standby or sleep mode can use up to the equivalent of 50 large power plants’ worth of electricity and cost more than $19 billion in electricity bills every year. And there’s an environmental cost: Overall electricity production represents about 37 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, one of the main contributors to climate change.
In the name of scientific inquiry, I tested about 30 appliances from friends’ houses as well as my own by plugging the devices into a Kill-a-Watt power meter, which can track how much power (in watts) is being drawn at any given moment.
My cable box drew 28 watts when it was on and recording a show, and 26W when it was off and not recording anything. Even if I never watched TV, I would still consume about 227 kilowatt-hours annually. To put it in context, that’s more than the average person uses in an entire year in some developing countries, including Kenya and Cambodia, according to World Bank estimates.
Always leaving a laptop computer plugged in, even when it’s fully charged, can use a similar quantity — 4.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a week, or about 235 kilowatt-hours a year. (Your mileage may vary, depending on model and battery. My computer is a few years old and a few readers have written to say their MacBooks use far less power.)
Read more about energy use of home electronics and small kitchen appliances: Just How Much Power Do Your Electronics Use When They Are ‘Off’? – The New York Times