Rising Use of Consumer Electronics Devices Increases Demand for Electricity

The California Energy Commission's debate on setting standards for maximum power usage for digital set-top boxes and other consumer electronics devices as well as efficiency standards for external AC to DC and AC to AC power supplies has highlighted the amount of power consumer electronic devices can consume even when off. Refrigerators and air conditioners are usually the first items mentioned when looking for ways to reduce energy consumption, but as manufacturers improve the efficiency of these products, the focus is moving to devices that draw power 24 hours a day even when they are not in use, such as video recorders, set-top boxes, and TV sets.

A BBC news article "Electronic Goods Guzzling Power" says a report from the United Kingdom's Energy Saving Trust indicates the amount of energy used by consumer electronic devices and domestic appliances in UK homes will double by 2010. According to the Trust, by 2010, digital TV set-top boxes alone will cost up to 780 million British pounds a year to run.

The report, "Rise of the Machines" is well illustrated and easy to read. In the table of contents, below a picture of portable, is the statement "By 2010 consumer electronics will become the biggest single sector of consumer electricity consumption." The report, however, goes beyond TV sets and includes items such as electric tools (do-it-yourself equipment), vacuum cleaners, fax machines, mobile phones, printers, home security systems, garden equipment, telephone answering machines and, of course computers, including monitors and laptop computers.

The report has a section on external power supplies noting, "In 2000, the electricity used by external power supply units accounted for 18 percent of the total energy used by domestic electronic appliances. As stated earlier, the average household now owns over five of these items each. Most people leave these items plugged in and drawing current when not in use--a condition known as 'no-load power consumption'. As mentioned before, a common misconception is that the unit is not drawing current whilst no active charging is taking place--if in doubt, touch the unit to feel how hot it gets."

For another look at what may become the standard for consumer electronic efficiency regulation, download the 495-page California Energy Commission Regulations. In the section on efficiency requirements for appliances, it states that effective January 1, 2008, digital set-top boxes sold in California must not consume more than 1 W in standby-passive mode and no more than 8 W when in use.