There are approximately 27 million active mobile devices in Australia right now*—more than our total population. If you think about what electronic devices you have in your household, chances are it’s more than just your mobile phone.
The number of gadgets in Australian homes is growing, including laptops, tablets, entertainment systems, smartphones, TVs, watches, gaming consoles and voice assistants—even smart fridges, doorbells and security systems are now commonplace. As a lot of these ‘smart’ devices are connected to the internet, they’re usually plugged in all the time—which can increase your energy usage. Of the laundry list of electronics in your home, which ones are zapping the most energy? And how can you reduce it? Let’s find out.
Let’s start with the tech many claim they can’t live without—your phone. To charge your phone five times, it takes about 52 watt hours of energy—equivalent to about 1 cent on a standard electricity plan. Wireless devices (like your mobile phone) are designed for battery saving, which makes them more energy efficient by default.
52 watt hours doesn’t sound like much, but if you leave your charger plugged in all the time (even if it’s not charging anything) it will continue to draw energy. This means that if you’re only using your charger 50% of the time, you’re using double the amount of energy you actually need. #UnplugIt
Whether you have a desktop computer or a laptop, the way you use your computer can significantly affect your energy use. Similar to your phone, a laptop is designed for energy efficiency, so will always use less than a desktop computer. Your laptop charger also continues to use energy, whether your typing, browsing and emailing, or not. You’ll use approximately 116 watts to run two laptops for 10 hours.
If you have a desktop, factor in that you need to power up both your computer and your monitor. Your monitor alone will use about 300 watt hours to run for 10 hours. If you have an animated, or ‘always on’ screensaver, it may save your privacy, but it won’t save your energy. Make sure to turn these off, or make the automatic shut off timers shorter, and close excess apps, windows and documents when you’re not using them to preserve battery (AKA energy).
If you work from home, keep this in mind and try to reduce the number of devices you have. In today’s paperless world, do you still need a printer? If so, consider if you can turn it off at the switch once the work-week is complete.
Your gaming console.
Is someone in your home a self-confessed gamer? Gaming consoles are getting more powerful than ever, with most next-generation consoles consuming more energy than their predecessors. Running a gaming console (without the TV), can use upwards of 630 watt hours of energy every hour, which in some cases can be more than the energy usage of the TV you’re playing it on.
Depending on how often you play your console, it might be practical to unplug it from the wall when you’re not using it. Also consider if the console needs to be connected to the internet all the time and check your system’s settings to make sure you’re on the best setup for you. Some features, such as ‘instant on’, voice control and gesture recognition, may increase your energy usage.
Home appliances, including TVs and home entertainment systems, make up a significant portion of your energy bill—sometimes, up to 25% of it^. When comparing the LEDs to the LCDs and the OLEDs to the QLEDs, most modern TVs are on a pretty even playing field in terms of energy efficiency. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are currently the most common type of TV technology used in Australia, and also use the least of amount of energy—followed closely by organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). Plasma screens top the list of energy-guzzling TV technology, but larger screen sizes, higher resolutions and internet connectivity can all increase your energy usage too, regardless of the technology you pick. Watching TV for six hours using a 50-inch LED TV, will use approximately 546 watt hours of energy.
In Australia, TVs are one home appliance that’s required by law to feature an energy rating label (the energy stars). To stay on top of your energy usage, lower your brightness (or your contrast settings if you have an OLED), don’t choose a TV that is bigger than you need, always check the energy stars when comparing products and unplug it if you intend not to be using it for a while.
If you cast your favourite TV shows and movies, or you have a streaming device/box that connects to your TV, these products are optimised for video streaming. If you have the option, always use these items to stream your content, as they are significantly less energy-intensive than using a gaming console, computer or laptop to perform the same task.
Your energy-saving gadgets.
A smart home, full of devices, doesn’t always mean more energy usage. Standby power controllers (SPCs) and other gadgets may actually help you to save energy, rather than spend it. SPCs reduce your standby energy usage by switching off appliances ‘at the wall’ via an inactivity timer or schedule. These superpowered adaptors remove the inconvenience of flicking on and off hard-to-reach switches, and once they’re set up, they’ll do the work for you.
Automated lights, heaters, coolers and appliances will also help you to stay on top of your energy if you set them up for energy-saving. If you’re prone to forgetting to turn off the heater at night, or accidentally leaving lights on while you’re at work, using a home ‘virtual assistant’ or the in-built timers on your appliances may help you to waste less and save more. Depending on your meter and your pricing plan, it may help you to make the most of cheaper energy periods too.
When considering energy-saving devices, don’t forget to consider the initial cost of the device. After all, it’s not worth purchasing if the cost is more than the potential savings.
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