The Latest Game Consoles Could Tack on $1 Billion to Energy Bills

A report; released by the National Resources Defense Council examined the energy consumption of the newest and most popular game consoles on the market today — the Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. Its findings were shocking.

According to the report, these consoles will consume more than 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually — two to three times more energy than their predecessors. To put it another way, that's the equivalent to the energy output of four large power plants or the amount of energy the entire city of Houston uses.

The NRDC says this energy use will cost about $1 billion annually $400 million; of which can be attributed to energy waste.

Some of these models are better than others. The biggest energy waster is the Xbox One, which will cost a user about $180 over the lifetime of the console. Stretched over a lifetime, it may not seem like much. However, it's significantly more than the $50 its predecessor, the Xbox 360, cost. The PS4 will cost $135 over its lifetime, while the PS3 only costs $50. The Wii U, however, doesn't consume any extra energy, adding the same energy cost of $30 as the previous Wii model.

So why are these machines more expensive to operate? Part of the problem is how these consoles function. In the past, game consoles were only used for playing video games. But now consumers use these devices for entertainment;. Through the machines, consumers can browse the Internet, stream shows on Netflix or Hulu, play music and Skype with friends. For the most part, game consoles are always plugged in, even when they aren't in use.

They also lack efficiency found elsewhere in the market. The NRDC reports that both the PS4 and Xbox One use 30 to 45 times the amount of energy to stream a movie than devices such as Apple TV, Roku or a Blu-ray player.

Of course, games have gotten better too. Innovations have allowed manufacturers to provide better graphics and processing speeds, and these improvements also consume more energy.

However, the biggest issue is how much energy these devices use in standby mode. Many appliances and gadgets in your home consume power when not in use. This is often referred to as vampire power and although it adds to your energy bill, these costs are usually minimal.

Video game consoles are a different story. The NRDC reports that 44 percent of the energy consumed by the Xbox One is spent in standby mode. And 32 percent of power consumed by the PS4 happens when the device is not in use.

With so much energy waste, it makes sense to unplug the devices completely. However, the consoles have features that will only work in standby mode. The Xbox One, for example, is equipped with voice control which only works when the device is on. The PS4 also has USB charging for controllers that can only be used while the console is on standby mode.

How can you save energy?

  • Unplug your devices when possible. Before you leave for work, go to sleep or head out for a vacation, unplug your console. It will ensure the machines won't consume power when you're not around to use them.
  • Use an alternative streaming device. It's certainly handy to use the streaming technology on your game console, but to save energy use a different device to stream your favorite shows and movies.
  • Enable Auto Power Down (APD) mode. All three consoles have a power down function; that will place your device in standby mode after a certain amount of time. Although it will still use energy in standby mode, enabling this feature will save power from active mode.

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