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Posts Tagged ‘vampire power’

Rechargeable BatteriesThinking of making the switch to rechargeable batteries? Like other energy efficiency tweaks, rechargeable batteries have an upfront cost, but the long-term benefits are very worth the investment and pay for themselves in just two years. One set of rechargeables can replace hundreds of single-use (disposable) batteries, billions of which are used each year in the US alone. Most of these disposable batteries are not recycled and there is no way to reuse them, making batteries quite the climate mess!

The good news is that rechargeable batteries work great, outperforming regular batteries in most situations (except when used in cameras). Rechargeables also consume up to 23 times fewer natural resources than disposable batteries. Upgrades in technology have allowed rechargeables to become slightly more affordable and better functioning over the years, too. There are now batteries that can be charged using a USB port, eliminating the need for a separate battery recharging station.

Here are some tips to make the switch to rechargeables:

  • Choose high quality batteries to power your life: Here’s a list of the best rechargeable batteries for 2015. Many of the same battery brands you are accustomed to using also offer rechargeables, and there are lots of new companies making great options. Stock up on a few sets, get a charger, and get started with the savings!
  • Don’t forget to charge ‘em up: One of the hassles with rechargeable batteries is that they need to charge, sometimes for a few hours each. Having backup batteries charged and ready to go can help alleviate the stress of an important toy or game that suddenly stops working (doubly important if you have kids who want to play NOW). Many rechargeables also come pre-charged for last-minute needs.
  • Be aware of the power slide: As batteries age, they may not store energy for as long as newer batteries. Rechargables also tend to lose juice as they sit, so charge a batch of batteries every few weeks if you find that you’re running out of power often. If you use a lot of batteries, perhaps keep a few regular batteries around as you get accustomed to regularly charging up your rechargeable stash.

Want to learn more about rechargeable batteries? Check out these great resources:

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battery image from America’s Best Organics

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gaming consoles are tarnishing your green lifestyleSo 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!

power use gaming consoles graph[image: screen capture NRDC)

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!

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andrea head shot circleAbout the Author: Andrea Bertoli helps to spread awareness of personal climate impacts via social media, blogging, advertising and community outreach for Oroeco.

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A vampire lurks in your DVR! (and cable/satellite box too!)

Which appliance consumes the most power in your home? The refrigerator? The washer, dryer, or TV? A quick energy audit will tell you that the culprit may be a much less imposing energy beast, if you (like over 80% of Americans) have a DVR and set-top cable or satellite box. That’s right, those seemingly innocuous glowing little boxes can combine to suck more electricity than an Energy Star refrigerator, according to a study by NRDC.

There are approximately 160 million DVRs and set-top boxes in the US now draining about $3 billion worth of electricity per year, the equivalent of nine 500 MW coal-fired power plants. That’s more power than used by the entire state of Maryland! And the real kicker is that 2/3 of that energy is consumed when these devices are supposedly “off.” Unfortunately, these little buggers never really die: the lights may go off, but they’re still sucking over 90% what they would while on. And that power drain happens 24/7, 365 days a year. Thus, an HD DVR typically consumes more power than the TV it’s connected to.


So the trick-or-treaters may be long gone from your doorstep, but you’ve still got some big energy vampires lurking in the darkness. The good news is that Buffy [the vampire slayer] is now on the way via a new EPA Energy Star 3.0 standard that mandates substantial improvements over the 2.0 version, and the cable industry (which owns most boxes) recently announced voluntary efficiency measures after all the bad press. But the only way to truly curb your boxy vampires’ appetite is to put them on a power strip that you switch off when you’re not watching TV or recording Buffy reruns. Or join the hipster kids and just stream it all online.

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