Consumer electronics is one of the fastest-growing categories of electricity use in the home — up from 5 percent in 1980 to nearly 15 percent of a home's total electricity consumption today. By 2015, it's estimated to be closer to 20 percent for many homes. • There are simple adjustments that consumers can make in the use of their technology equipment and toys to make them notably more efficient. Chicago Tribune
In general, the amount of power a TV uses increases with screen size. A 52-inch, high-definition TV can use as much energy annually as a new refrigerator. And that's likely to be two times more energy than a consumer's old, smaller TV.
LCD or plasma? "The typical 42-inch plasma TV uses approximately 100 more watts than a similar sized LCD," according to Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. That amounts to at least $200 more in electricity over the life of the product.
To do: Turn down the brightness of your TV to cut your energy use as much as 25 percent. Use the "standard" or "home" mode.
When shopping for a new set, look for TVs with the Energy Star mark. They are up to 30 percent more energy efficient than others.
(Cable box, satellite box, boxes with DVR function, TiVo)
They're big-time power suckers, because these boxes run at near full power 24/7. Some with more features (those with TiVo-like capability) can consume more than 250 kilowatt hours a year. That's about half the annual energy use of a new refrigerator.
To do: Ask your service provider if they have one of the new Energy Star-qualified set-top boxes, which became available Jan. 1. These set-top boxes are at least 30 percent more efficient than other models.
The annual electricity usage of a computer that's used sloppily (left on and not power managed) can account for up to one-tenth of a car's carbon dioxide emissions.
Dos and don'ts: Don't disable the power management feature. Most of today's computers ship with it "enabled." It tells the monitor/computer when to go sleep (after a preset period of inactivity) and when to go into a deeper, power-saving mode, called standby.
Do wait till July to buy a new computer. That's when some of the most energy-efficient computers hit the market, thanks to new Energy Star specifications.
Do get rid of your screen saver. Unlike 10 years ago, the screen saver serves no useful purpose and does not extend the life of your monitor. Killing it could save you $50 to $100 on your electric bill over a year, depending on your equipment.
Do consider a laptop. A new laptop could use up to four times less power than your old computer and LCD monitor.
Power strip, surge protector
One of the most useful tools for eco-conscious consumers with lots of techno toys. They make it easy to completely "power off" electronics that go into a standby or low-power mode when you think you're turning them "off." U.S. households spend about $100 a year on such vampire power. Consumer electronics account for about $40 of those $100.
Computers, computer peripherals, modems, TVs, DVD players and surround-sound systems can be on power strips to be turned off (after powering down each device). But cable connections to the Internet and set-top boxes should be left on to receive updates and downloads from service providers.
External power supplies
(Little black boxes to charge everything from cell phones and BlackBerrys to computer printers and digital cameras)
The average American has five or more of them and they're often left plugged in — and that's a big no-no, or at least it has been in the past. These boxes typically were very inefficient, as they converted a lot of incoming power into waste heat.
To do: Unplug power supplies when they're not charging something up.
Video game consoles
More than 40 percent of all U.S. homes have at least one of these, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Assuming half of these are left on all the time, our video game habit as a nation consumes an estimated 16 billion kilowatt hours a year in electricity. That's about the same as the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego.
To do: Save your game and power-down the system when you're done. Enable the auto-shutdown, power-saving mode if you've got it. And yes, it's up to the gamer to enable this feature. Go to www.nrdc.org/energy/consoles /contents.asp for instructions.