NEWS: Consumer electronics in the green firing line

By 2010, our love affair with home entertainment systems, computers and other electronic gadgets will mean a huge increase in domestic energy consumption, needing the equivalent of 14 average-sized power stations just to keep us informed and entertained.

That's the warning from the Energy Saving Trust, one of the leading organisations tackling the UK's effect on climate change.

Panasonic's 103in plasma – never mind the picture, watch the electricity meter, says the Energy Saving Trust

In its report, The ampere strikes back, the Trust says that in the next three years consumer electronics will overtake refrigeration and lighting, traditionally high consuming appliances, as the main draw on the power supply.

And by 2020, the consumer electronics and information/communication technology are expected to use 49 TerraWatts per hour (TWh), 45 per cent of total domestic electricity consumption.

Why the increase? The Trust blames more sophisticated and capable versions of traditional electronic items, which tend to be more power-hungry than the older kinds, and the increased use of 'standby' switching, rather than turning the units off at the mains.

The way we use technology is in the firing line, too. Listen to the radio via your Freeview set-top box or Sky box? The Trust says you're using much more power than you need to.

Even DAB radios don't escape: they use over four times more power than traditional analogue receivers, it's said.

Add in the fact that we tend not to junk old products when we buy new ones, instead typically moving our old TV into a second room when it's replaced by a shiny new flatscreen, and you have another cause of increased consumption.

TV screen sizes are growing, and this leads to more power consumption, the Trust says, noting that Panasonic's 103in plasma has an alarming 1.5kW power consumption.

But it does note that projectors are relatively efficient, and that those capable of creating the largest picture are the most efficient in terms of power consumption measured again screen size.

Digital set-top boxes are also causing concern. There are about 18m in use now, and this is predicted to rise to 80m by 2020 after analogue TV switch-off. That accounts for 13TWh of energy consumption.

But there is a little good news: whereas a 28in CRT TV with a Freeview set-top box uses 110W, a 32in LCD uses marginally less, at 105W. A 50in plasma, meanwhile, uses 183W.

Oh and about that games console... An Xbox 360 uses almost 160W when playing a game, or a little over 100W while watching a movie, while Sony's PS3 uses 187W and 174W respectively.

The good guy here is the Nintendo Wii, at just 17.6W - and with all that jumping around playing tennis or fighting, you could probably turn the heating down a bit, too!

To help consumers reduce their consumption, the Trust has a team of 'energy doctors, including Tamara Mauro-Trujillo (left), able to carry out a home energy check and advise on becoming more energy efficient.

It also publishes a guide giving tips on finding the most energy-efficient products, which you can see here.

Technorati Tags: climate change, DAB, energy efficiency, freeview, lcd, plasma, power consumption, standby button

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.