Technology has become so integrated into our lives that it’s hard to realize all the gadgets and gee-gaws that surround us and help with every little thing. From your laptop snoozing away on your desk, to the smartphone in your pocket patiently waiting for your inquiry, bionic support is just one wake-up button away.
But what monetary – or environmental – price are we paying for keeping this technological web at the ready? In the past, most devices and appliances had two modes: on and off. With digital interventions becoming more common, many devices now stay in a gray area of readiness, sometimes drawing unexpectedly large amounts of power.
Tatiana Schlossberg at The New York Times decided to figure out how much power common devices use, especially in “out of sight, out of mind” sleep mode. The results were interesting:
“My cable box drew 28 watts when it was on and recording a show, and 26W when it was off and not recording anything. Even if I never watched TV, I would still consume about 227 kilowatt-hours annually. To put it in context, that’s more than the average person uses in an entire year in some developing countries, including Kenya and Cambodia, according to World Bank estimates.
Always leaving a laptop computer plugged in, even when it’s fully charged, can use a similar quantity — 4.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a week, or about 235 kilowatt-hours a year. (Your mileage may vary[.)]”
It’s staggering to witness the amount of power these household standbys burn through while, well, on standby. In addition to the personal cost of the hidden hydro being frittered away, there is the greater investment of how that power is even generated to begin with. Running a nuclear power plant is not cheap!
The Times article really made me think about redefining “off” as “unplugged.” It also recommends rigging particular offenders to a power bar – clicking the whole thing off, while potentially erasing settings or interrupting internet connections, will also kill its need for power. And really, once all these devices finally achieve sentience and try to revolt, that would be a good thing to keep in mind!