How to Make Gaming Consoles Suck Less (Power)

Humans like to use energy. We also waste a ton of it, sometimes without realizing. The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) released a study last week, one that looked into just how much energy our gaming consoles are using. The study (.PDF), titled, "Lowering the Cost of Play: Improving the Energy Efficiency of Video Game Consoles,"was done by NRDC with and Ecos Consulting.

The study, which they say is the first ever comprehensive study on the energy use of video game consoles, estimates that American video game consoles alone use the equivalent of the amount of energy used by the city of San Diego annually: 16 billion kWh per year. The study did make the assumption that 1/2 of gamers that leave their consoles on all the time.

Simply by looking at the hardware specs of the various consoles, one would probably conclude that the Nintendo Wii sips energy, while the Xbox 360 and PS3 guzzle it, and you'd be right. The study noted that the Wii (16 watts) uses 1/7 the power of the Xbox 360 (110 watts) while gaming, and 1/9 the power (150 watts) of the PS3.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 can each gobble more than 1,000 kWh per year if left on all the time, equal to the annual energy use of two new refrigerators.

Not able to get your mind around that? Let's talk $. For those who have to pay the bills, turning off an Xbox 360 3 hours a day could results in estimated savings of $79 for an Xbox 360 and $105 for a PS3. Just think, you could spend that on more games.

Worse, and I didn't think about this previously, while the PS3 is a nice Blu-ray player, and in fact was the first BD-Live player on the market (due to a firmware upgrade), it use 5x the power of a stand-alone Sony Blu-ray player.

The study lists a number of recommendations for the video game industry, including campaigns to encourage users to shut down their systems, auto-power down systems enabled by default (the Xbox 360 and PS3 have this, but the options are disabled by default), and lower power consumption for new designs.

That last one will go over well, as it seems the better the experience and hardware, the more power it uses.

Still these are all decent suggestions. Humans waste a lot of energy, and we often don't even realize it. Ever wonder how your TV can turn on with a remote control? Does it magically detect the signal from the remote even though it's off? No, of course not. The truth is its not really off. Sure, sure it's not that much per TV. But add it up across the world and we're wasting a ton of energy.

Think of how much energy is wasted by the following, when added up across the world:
  • Retail stores with lights on all over the place (yes, yes, I know: security)
  • Automatic-opening doors
  • Not just TVs, but all the other instant-on devices in our houses
  • Chargers that are always plugged in (if they're warm, they're wasting power)
And on and on.

Oh, yeah, we will admit one thing: we consume as much energy as the next guy. Or maybe not, we do shut down more things than most, and don't leave our PCs or video console on all the time. But we are still pretty vampiric energy-wise.

End of rant.