April 19, 2012 at 9:03 PM ET
Analysts at Carnegie Mellon University report that game consoles are wasting power at record levels: 10.8 terawatt-hours, by their estimate, costing U.S. homeowners some $1.24 billion a year.
It's no secret that today's consoles, despite the platforms being several years old, draw significant amounts of power. Not nearly as much as a high-powered PC or big TV, but still more than your average light bulb: The Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 have improved a lot since 2006, but they still draw around 100 watts of electricity when active.
Naturally when they're turned off, power usage is very low, but the thing is that people don't actually turn their consoles all the way off -- they let them lapse into an idle or standby mode, which still consumes around 75 watts. There are ways to make the console turn off automatically, but clearly very few people are taking advantage of them, as by CMU's estimates, around 67.5 percent of the power drawn annually by consoles is from their idle mode.
That's over two-thirds of the total 16 TWh consumed by consoles, resulting in over a billion dollars wasted annually. Naturally there are bigger per-household wastes to think about -- leaving lights or heat on while traveling, or waste resulting from inefficient insulation -- but it's still a significant amount.
The solution the study offers is to enforce an automatic shutdown after one hour idle. The savings from this, they say, will outstrip those from efficiency regulations and other considerations. But until the government mandates console shutdown periods, the best bet may be to simply be careful to switch off your console when you're done with it.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.