Eco-Impact of Idling Gadgets and Bad Charging Habits

What would happen if we all, just for one hour, actually shut off our idling gadgets and pulled our unused chargers out of the socket? Answering that question was the motivation for a new study conducted by leading mobile refurbishment website eCycle Best, leading up to Saturday’s worldwide Earth Hour (EarthHour.org).

The study, which surveyed 100 consumers in February 2014, found that 70 percent of respondents owned at least one device in each of the three main categories; a laptop computer, a tablet and a smartphone. More than 40 percent of those confessed to ‘often’ leaving their unused chargers plugged in while only 30 percent say they regularly turn their devices off when not in use. Idle laptops, even without a screensaver, use more than 32 kWh a year. This results in a significant power drain known as “vampire energy use.”

Depending on the exact device type and charger technology, an idling gadget or an unused charger can use up to 0.1 to 0.5 watt per hour, resulting in a yearly power drain equivalent to more than $200 per device. “This is money directly out the window for American consumers, but also a welcome and easy opportunity to save the climate without a lot of effort. It is really eye-opening when you add up the number of chargers in an average American home,” notes David Kruchinin, CEO of eCycle Best.

So just how much are we wasting with idling gadgets and bad charging habits? eCycle Best did the math. In one year, the energy wasted by US households is equivalent to the total output of three coal power plants, 56 wind turbines and a nuclear reactor. Adding a dollar amount is tricky due to varying energy prices, but an average household should be able to save more than $500 yearly just by introducing better charging and device using habits such as:

  1. Turning off unused chargers around the house.

  2. Turning off mobile devices when not in use, especially laptops

  3. Investing in smartphones and other mobile gadgets with newer battery and charger technology.

Earth Hour is a great time to make a commitment to ending vampire energy consumption in your home or office, but that’s only the beginning. eCycle Best hopes that Americans will soon realize the huge financial and environmental impact of these bad habits, and be more mindful of their devices, when they’re in use and when it comes time to dispose of them . As David Kruchinin notes “these changes do not substantially alter our lifestyles, but they have a massive impact on several larger levels”.

Raw research data from the study is available from eCycle Best press contact Chantelle Oblefias via email chantelle.oblefias@ecyclebest.com.

ABOUT ECYCLE BEST

Leading the mobile refurbishment market in North America since 2002, eCycle Best has specialized in buying old, used and broken mobile devices for refurbishment and resale. An environmentally conscious company, eCycle Best promotes tips and tricks for more sustainable modern living on the eCycle Best Blog.

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    • Steele

      There seems be some misplaced decimals in this article. A plugged in charger using 0.5 watt/hour is only using 4.4 kWh per year, at $0.10/kWh that is a cost of only $0.44/year for a charger.

    • jeffhre

      If 365 x 24 = 8760 (hours) x .5 (watts) = 4.38 kWh x .11 = .4818 (dollars) or 48 cents using .11 as US average for electricity. Then Steele is right, where does the $200.00 a year per device come from?

      Let’s do a check based on the article – if idle laptops use 32 kWh a year. It follows that 32 x .11 = $3.52, which if true is more than an unused charger, but far less than $200. I would imagine that the “$500 a year” potential savings wouldn’t likely hold up too well considering the above.