So the holidays have come and gone, and with them a flurry of new games and consoles for the good gamers on your lists. While the diversion is delightful, it turns out that gaming consoles have a bit of a dark side too. These amazing devices are using more power than ever, which means they are costing extra money and energy each time we sit down to play. Zelda would not approve.
The New York Times reported that current gaming consoles are using about 60-80% more energy than previous models. What accounts for that ridiculous increase when almost every other home appliance and tool has become MORE energy efficient in recent years?
Turns out that the devices have increased in electricity usage because of changes to memory, larger hard drives and better graphics. The cost of running them alone is not huge (about $5-10 each year based on average 6.4 weekly hours, according to the NYT article), but most of the energy used for the console is when the device is off! According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the majority of the energy expended for gaming is from when the console is on standby mode, as the system is waiting for voice commands and keeping USB ports ready — all day (or all night) long! Simply turning off the console will reduce the energy usage by a significant amount of this vampire power. You might need to spend a few minutes setting up the console, but the trade off is immense:
“[Nearly] half of the Xbox One’s annual energy is consumed in connected standby, when the console continuously draws more than 15 watts while waiting for the user to say ‘Xbox on,’ even in the middle of the night or during the workday when no one is home. If left unchanged, this one feature will be responsible for $400 million in annual electricity bills and the equivalent annual output of a large, 750-megawatt power plant.”
In addition to the live and vampire energy use of the consoles, the whole entertainment package needs to be taken into consideration, too. Those larger-than-life TVs, wireless internet and other accessories integral to the function of the consoles mean that gaming can be a huge energy suck in the home. A large plasma screen TV can consume 250 kilowatt hours a year, about half of what it takes to power a refrigerator!
This doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming or TV; it just means you need to take some smart steps in the home to eliminate these vampires of energy consumption:
- Use consoles for gaming only: the PS4 and Xbox One use 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than a dedicated device, like Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
- Let your superheros, villains and zombies sleep: Unplug the TV, internet, gaming console and all components at night and when you’re gone for the day; the gaming consoles use a lot of energy when in standby mode, as do most other electronics.
- Choose a device with less energy consumption. In reviews, the Nintendo Wii proved to use significantly less energy than Xbox or Play Station, using almost no power when on standby and using less during play, too.
- Tell the company! Make your voice heard by the companies that make products you love! Share your passion for gaming AND for a cleaner climate with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, and encourage them to improve the efficiency of gaming consoles to save consumers money and be a better business for the planet!