Consumer Electronics: Your Utility Company's Best Friend

If you're reading this article, the chances are real good that your home is full of electronic gadgets.  Moreover many are permanently plugged into wall sockets.   Having recently purchased a P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt EZ power meter, I've been running around getting a feel for how much energy some of these common components use.

For this first table, I wanted to see how much energy was being consumed by audio/visual components that were plugged into the wall, but not powered on.  Indeed some of these numbers are eye-opening:

 Device  Watts consumed (powered off)
Visio 22" LCD HDTV (circa 2007)  1.58
Visio 32" LCD HDTV (circa 2009)  1.18
25" RCA Tube TV (circa 1990)  4.17
Marantz AV Surround Reveiver SR7200  2.79
Marantz CD Changer CC9100  1.43
Marantz DVD Player DV6200  3.60
Boston Micro90pv II Subwoofer 14.53
Microsoft Xbox 360  3.64
Nintendo Wii  2.70
Sony PlayStation 2  0.67
Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4250HD set top 17.27
Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD DVR set top 20.00

The granularity of the P4460 is hundredths of kilowatt-hours, which means that in order to get a decent reading on a low-power device, you've got to leave it attached for a while.  No doubt some of these measurements could be more accurate, but I think you get the point.  Of note:

  1. The 4 components that comprise the audio system consume over 22 watts all day, every day 24x7.
  2. As set top boxes gain more functionality (e.g. DVR), they suck up even more power.   At this rate, you'd think the power utility would subsidize the cable companies to get as many of these things installed as possible.
  3. All told, the devices in the preceding table consume an amount of energy similar to a 75 watt incandescent light bulb being left on all the time.

For the most part, these components are non-critical, and one could argue that some (e.g  the stereo) should be connected to a power strip with an on/off button. This should not pose much of an inconvenience.  However, it's a completely different story when it comes to the video components.  When powered cycled, set top boxes take forever to reach full functionality as they reboot over the cable network.  And televisions, if left untethered to electric power for too long, go through this whole channel search sequence when they're powered up.  In short, when it comes to video, you're currently stuck with paying the hidden price of "convenience".

For the computer nerd in us, here's a table comprising some of the computer/network-related components that are left on 24x7.

Device
 Watts Consumed
Belkin Wireless G Router
 5.09
Motorola SBV5120 SURFboard Cable Modem
 5.40
Netgear ProSafe 16 port 10/100 Switch (FS116)
 8.33
HP Photosmart c6280 printer (circa 2008) (networked)
 4.78
HP Laserjet 4P (circa 1994)
 5.32
Canon ImageCLASS MF4270 all-in-one laser printer (networked) (circa 2009)
 3.60
Fit-PC Slim with external USB hard disk (network file server)
 7.50

A decade ago, devices like those listed above were virtually non-existent in the home.  So what's the cost of being Internet ready anytime, anywhere?  About 40 watts all day and all night. Some final points:

  1. In general, carefully consider keeping around older gadgets.  The circa 1990s devices definitely use more energy than their newer, more functional counterparts.
  2. Notice no computers are included.  You know you have more than one, some (present company included) have way more than one.  Let's hope you're turning these off or at least putting them to sleep at night!
Comments:

It is fascinating data. Still, if you have three TVs, two set-top boxes and three game consoles, I can think of at least 5 things to do to cut the vampire load at your house :)

Posted by rick jones on November 17, 2009 at 12:26 PM EST #

Reading this a bit late, but thought you might want to know:
When Switzerland's Telco Swisscom started to roll out their first generation DVR/IPTV solution to customers, it drew so much power (even when not running) that critics quickly calculated that if people would actually buy and use that device in large numbers (like TVs or old-school VCRs), there would simply be not enough power in Switzerland's electrical grid to make them run all day.
It would cost maybe a dollar or two to fit every "TV" with a little flash storage to make the configuration persistent. Then you could power it off completely when you don't need it. It works for wireless routers, so why not in every other device?
Imagine if you would need to have your car sort-of-running all the time because it would lose some of its "configuration" otherwise.

Posted by Rainer on November 19, 2009 at 11:46 AM EST #

It would cost maybe a dollar or two to fit every "TV" with a little flash storage to make the configuration persistent.

Posted by Louis Vuitton bags on January 26, 2010 at 08:31 PM EST #

The table of consumption is quite unexpected, especially for the sub. What would need the power for this?

Posted by Electrical Repairs on April 26, 2010 at 02:05 AM EDT #

Thanks for the measurements. We too were surprised when we started to measure, I am currently having trouble getting my house below 250W at idle.

For my audio equipment attached to my TV I use one of these Eon power Switches:
www.eonenergy.com/At-Home/Going-Green/Energy-Saving-Advice/Interactive-House/Resource-Centre/resource-centre-powerdown.htm

When I put my TV into standby the Sub and Amp have their mains power completely removed.

I am working in reducing the number of DC power supplies, and also consolidation of data onto a single NAS disk (with a single backup) rather than the various 250/320 disks that have built up in my machines over the years.

I was considering changing my two network switches in the attic to one FS116 which is what brought me to your page. Surprisingly most switch documentation gives no indication of operational power used!

Posted by Simon on August 25, 2010 at 12:23 AM EDT #

Thanks for the measurements. We too were surprised when we started to measure, I am currently having trouble getting my house below 250W at idle.

For my audio equipment attached to my TV I use one of these Eon power Switches:
www.eonenergy.com/At-Home/Going-Green/Energy-Saving-Advice/Interactive-House/Resource-Centre/resource-centre-powerdown.htm

When I put my TV into standby the Sub and Amp have their mains power completely removed.

I am working in reducing the number of DC power supplies, and also consolidation of data onto a single NAS disk (with a single backup) rather than the various 250/320 disks that have built up in my machines over the years.

I was considering changing my two network switches in the attic to one FS116 which is what brought me to your page. Surprisingly most switch documentation gives no indication of operational power used!

Posted by Simon on August 25, 2010 at 12:24 AM EDT #

It would cost maybe a dollar or two to fit every "TV" with a little flash storage to make the configuration persistent.

Posted by Painting From Photo on September 09, 2010 at 03:56 PM EDT #

It would cost maybe a dollar or two to fit every "TV" with a little flash storage to make the configuration persistent.

Posted by Painting From Photo on September 09, 2010 at 03:57 PM EDT #

I was considering changing my two network switches in the attic to one FS116 which is what brought me to your page. Surprisingly most switch documentation gives no indication of operational power used!

Posted by Laptop Battery on September 09, 2010 at 03:59 PM EDT #

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