Consumer Electronics

Game Consoles Can Be Energy Hogs

Paul Ausick

With all the electronic gadgets people can own these days, one might think that U.S. demand for electricity would be going through the roof. Actually demand growth for electricity was only 0.7% in 2012, and the projections for 2013 out through 2040 never show annual growth of even 2%.

But game consoles like the Xbox One from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and the PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) are doing all they can to keep the demand for electricity high, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

Approximately half of U.S. households have a video game console and while the latest models are better at reducing power when idle, they could still consume as much electricity as your fridge if left on when the TV is turned off.

In the Xbox One’s “instant on” mode and the PS4’s “standby mode,” the consoles remain connected to the Internet by default, which can effectively double their consumption of electricity. As for streaming video through the game consoles, NRDC advises against it: “[D]on’t stream video with your game console because it requires up to 30 times more energy to play a movie than such devices as a smart TV or an external box like Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV.”

Here is an NRDC chart that illustrates the amount of power used by the Xbox One (with the Kinect box) and the PS4 (with the camera installed) and USB charging enabled.

The dollar cost of not turning off the game console can be up to $75 a year, nearly double the cost of leaving a PC and monitor turned on 24/7.

The NRDC isn’t really trying to tell U.S. consumers how to spend their money. Wasting electricity on game consoles that are not being used has other costs. If the consoles were to become even 25% more energy efficient, the NRDC reckons they would still use as much as 11 billion kWh per year of electricity. That amount of electricity requires four 500-megawatt power plants and is enough to power the city of Houston for a full year.

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