Thursday, 5 July 2007

Gadgets and saving energy don’t mix


CAN YOU BE an obsessed gadget freak and green at the same time? I’m sure it’s possible, at a stretch, but the fact remains that every Watt you manage to save at home by closing the door to the bog, reducing your thermostat and wearing thermal underwear, is defeated by every new gadget you buy. Trust me, I’m no environmentalist - not through choice, but by the fact that my office and home are so crammed with tech stuff, my place can be seen pulsing brightly from space.
I’d like to be more green but the reality is that my babies need juice or else I can’t live out that stereotypical ‘boys and their toys’ fantasy life. One room alone in my house – which used to serve as my office, in my defence - has 52 plug sockets. My current office, beside the house, has 44 [maybe I am green], not including four, four-socket extension cables. At the moment, 20 are in use, with around half of them juicing up one piece of kit or another.
Still, I’m always up for a challenge and having read some interesting stuff yesterday from the Energy Savings Trust, I’m game to try and reduce my electricity bill by being a little more conscious about what’s drinking power. There’s a very good reason why I need to do this and it has nothing to do with cherishing our beautiful green and blue spinning ball. Right now, my electricity bill every two months averages £160 but, sometimes spikes to £180. The average UK bill for the year is around £400. Eek. I do have to factor in a few night storage heaters but gadgets are certainly to blame for most of it.
It seems gadgets, more than anything else, are set to be the biggest power drain on the national grid in the coming years. Consumer electronics, to give them their official name, are set to become the biggest power hogs by 2010, displacing previous power junkies lights and cold appliances from the top spots. By 2020, gadgets – from anorexic TVs to digital radios – will gobble up 45 per cent of UK household power every year. That’s 14 power stations-worth for those of you that need to know. UK folk spend £12 billion a year on gadgets and, short of a global economic implosion, that figure is set to keep rocketing. Among the worst offenders are flat TVs – especially plasma ones - digital radios, consoles left idling [not in standby], computers, etc.
For instance, there is a general belief/myth that thin TVs drink significantly less than your old fat CRT TV. According to the EST, an old CRT TV needed around 100W. A 40in+ plasma needs around 300W to get up and running. Even LCDs are not as power efficient as the marketing would lead us to believe. Take the humble digital radio. This inconspicuous device draws around 8.5W when running, compared to 2W for a analogue radio. Even in stand-by, it consumes 5W, versus 1W for analogue. As for people listening to digital radio via their TVs, you may as well just send a blank cheque to your local electricity supplier. I didn’t know that a console booted up and left on consumes almost the same amount of power as when it’s in active use. I have often left my Xbox 360 on like this for days at a time. As a result, I’m looking at adding over £100 to my yearly bill. I’d guess my biggest juicers are my PCs and laptops – with anything up to three [not all mine] running 12-16 hours a day.
I’ve spent a while going around today checking what’s on that doesn’t need to be on and what rarely used items can be switched off at the mains. And no, I’m not glowing a little greener and a halo of righteousness is not forming over my head. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just about saving our planet, etc. but putting money – the useful type of green - back in my wallet. Like many people, my green aspirations have been kickstarted by selfish motivations and if the national grid benefits that’s all well and good. You can check out the amusingly titled report, “The Ampere Strikes Back” here.
I don’t expect miracles but I do expect to see a noticeable drop in my bill. And now that I’ll have this extra cash, there’s a couple of new gadgets I’ve been dying to get hold of. Hey, nobody’s perfect. µ
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