Blog Post

Plug Loads and Small Electronics

There are a couple big-picture links I want to put right out front. You can come back to them later, but I want you to be aware of them in case they're not already on your radar. OK. The Energy Star people have been putting out occasional interview-style podcasts on topics like the energy use of computers (including servers and data centers) and imaging equipment. But the first three, in late 2006, were about consumer electronics — and those are the ones that have really stuck with me. Though rooted in the residential sector, the takeaway is broad. The following long bullets are taken from those podcasts, which are also available transcribed.
  • "Consumer electronics is probably the fastest growing category of electricity growth in the home. And in a home that has a lot of the latest devices, it could easily represent 15 to 20 percent of a home's electricity use."
  • "If you go back about 25 years, about 5 percent of the energy used by your home was consumer electronics. And that has almost tripled to current rates of about 13, 14 percent. We're estimating right now we'd probably be somewhere closer to 20 percent of the home energy bill in 2015 being related to consumer electronics devices."
  • "The typical American owns 25 consumer electronics products and spends more than $1,200 a year buying them, according to the Consumer Electronics Association."
  • "In the U.S., TVs consume around 46 billion kilowatt hours per year, or about 4 percent of residential electricity use. This is roughly equal to the annual electricity use of all households in the state of New York."
  • "If you go to someone's home who just bought a new big-screen TV, that new TV might use two to three times more power than the one they're replacing, and they have no idea. They could be adding the equivalent of two new refrigerators into their home."
  • "Those little black boxes, the external power supplies... we have five or ten in our home typically. If all external power supplies met the standards set in California and met the Energy Star spec, we could cut the world's electricity bill by more than a billion dollars a year — that's "B" as in boy — and eliminate the need for six large power plants."
  • "When a consumer goes into a retail setting and looks at televisions, for example, they tend to be displayed in a manner where the picture is the brightest, most vivid, to catch their eye. And there is very little focus, if any, on the energy consumption."
  • "I went to the Consumer Electronics Show to all the different booths of every manufacturer and said, could you tell me how much energy your TV uses? And they couldn't answer me. Then I finally got one company, and they said, oh, you want to talk about power? Hold on. And they got the engineer, who said, oh, this is very powerful."
  • "We've spent the last decade or so trying to make our refrigerators and air conditioners more efficient. It would be a shame to throw away all those savings as we introduce all these new, full-featured consumer electronic products in the home."
  • "We've taken some aggressive steps to try to come up with specifications to recognize the more efficient power supplies and battery chargers. But in the end, consumers are going to have to demand that. It doesn't have to be all consumers, it just has to be enough of them to make a difference in the eyes of manufacturers."
  • "One thing that many consumers do not know is that the average home pollutes twice as much as the average car. All those devices churning away in your home, they get their energy from a power plant. And those power plants are very polluting, or can be. People need to know that what goes on inside the house is as significant as what they're doing on the road."
Bonus links:

Published January 22, 2008

(2008, January 22). Plug Loads and Small Electronics. Retrieved from

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May 1, 2008 - 4:28 am

Thank you for the excellent insight into the impact of our hunger for the latest and greatest technological innovations for entertainment and consumer electronics. There's so much focus on the rising prices at the gas pump that we forget the high cost of our energy appetites in other aspects of our lives.