A recent report by the Digital Power Group claimed that smartphones like the iPhone use more energy than a medium-sized Energy Star refrigerator. Many have been quick to point out that power consumption varies tremendously based on usage and that the parameters used in the contentious report do not likely match the usage patterns of the average consumer. Even so, the report couldn’t help but make us wonder if there were other secret energy hogs around the house and if there was anything we could do about them.
1. Set-Top Boxes
While the cable box may be small and easily overlooked, they can also be a major energy drain. Even if it only looks like the clock is on, the cable box is almost always at full power, communicating with remote content, recording shows, and performing other tasks.
“The issue with set-top boxes is that they never power down and they are almost always consuming their full power requirements even when you think you’ve turned it off,” said Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If you have a DVR on your main TV, and a regular set-top box on a second TV, that could equal the energy use of a new refrigerator.”
Efficiency gains are being made through voluntary efforts, but organizations like the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) are working to put mandatory improvements in place for such devices.
2. Furnace Fans
Furnace fans perform a vital function, circulating air from your heating and cooling system throughout the house. Between heating and cooling these fans spend a lot of time in action and are among the biggest energy users in a home, responsible for more than 10 percent of the average American home’s electricity usage. That is double or triple the amount that the average refrigerator uses, according to Appliance Standards Awareness Project.
A great way to cut down on energy usage is to replace the fan with a more efficient model, like a brushless permanent magnet (BPM) fan, which can cut down on energy usage by 60 percent.
3. Game Consoles
Game consoles have definitely gotten better since the days of Atari and the original Nintendo, but all that performance comes with a heftier demand for electric power. Consoles like the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 have some power-saving features, but there are still big areas for improvement.
“They feature an on/off button, which puts the console into a standby mode with less than one watt of power usage, which is what it should be they work great,” said Noah Horowitz, a staffer at the National Resources Defense Council. Unfortunately, many users don’t turn the units off, or turn off the television but leave the console on, a mistake that could add a significant amount to their monthly energy bills.
“If you run the console 24/7 because you don’t turn it off, it could cost you an extra hundred dollars a year,” he said. Additionally, “you’d like the console to turn off unused features. You don’t need that powerful game processor when you’re just streaming a movie, but right now the consoles are not designed to differentiate between those tasks.”
Newer consoles automatically power down when they are not in use, and older models have that feature, but it has to be turned on through the menu first.
Whether trying to save on your electricity bill, or looking for ways to make more environmentally friendly choices, it is a good idea to shop around for the most energy efficient devices, and to make sure they are turned off when you do not need them.