Nov 6 2011
The Staggering Cost of Powering our Gadgets

The Staggering Cost of Powering our Gadgets

We are a gadget nation. There is no getting away from it; nearly everybody now owns a cell phone, laptop, music player, PDA or other smart phone device. Some of us, in such a brief amount of time, now find ourselves lost without the ability to check our social media pages, surf the net or check email while on the move. Technologies such as Wi-fi, third generation mobile phones and the fabled iPhone – and its rivals – have altered the way we communicate, conference and live our lives, and in such a short space of time too. All this reliance on gadgets has meant we are now consuming more energy than ever before, and at a time when energy saving has become a paramount concern to most people due to the threat of climate change,.

All our battery-powered gadgets require regular recharging, and the moment we plug them into the mains, we start contributing to emissions from gas and coal reliant power stations. Sure, our gadgets use only a trickle of energy to recharge, but think of the cumulative effect and the amount of devices we are now recharging daily. And it’s not just in powering our gadgets and laptops that is increasing demand for power. The Internet is a power-hungry beast with the energy costs of running servers and data centers immense. Every time we ask a search engine such as Google to find the latest deals on flights, scrap insurance or hotel rooms, the energy cost of searching equates to seven grams of CO2–that is the equivalent of boiling a kettle every time we do two searches!

With governments investing in renewable and reducing carbon consumption, the world is changing for the better, and Internet companies such as Google are investing more and more in low energy technologies, helping to reduce the immense power consumption of their data centers and server systems. But we the consumer can also do more. Nobody is suggesting we stop using the Internet, or get rid of our gadgets and laptops, but there are steps we can take to reduce the energy consumption of our devices. Our chosen Internet provider is a good place to start. Several low energy Internet Providers that use renewable energy and have power-saving server systems provide exactly the same service as less energy efficient companies.  Also, there is the technology itself. The carbon cost of our gadgets can be greatly reduced by investing in the latest low-energy models. Energy-saving laptops require far less power, and more and more manufactures are moving to low energy technologies with big names such as Apple, Acer and Packard Bell, producing laptops with an emphasis on low energy consumption. Most laptop manufacturers now advertise the energy requirements of their products, which helps us consumers identify the power demands of the machines. So, when looking for a new laptop, look for energy requirements as well as the speed, hard drive capacity and other specifications.

Laptops now come with energy-saving information

Charging our devices is another area where we can make reductions in power. All too often, people leave their phone or laptop chargers plugged in, even when we aren’t recharging anything. But these devices are simple transformers, converting AC power into DC, and whether something’s plug in or not, the device will still consume energy to make the conversion. Turning chargers off at the socket will prevent energy wastage as will keeping an eye on recharge times; overcharging is also wasteful.

There are alternatives to the traditional mains recharger too. An increasing amount of cell phone and laptop rechargers are available that use absolutely no power at all. Solar powered chargers slowly recharge gadgets using only the sun. These clean, CO2-free methods of recharging have other benefits too: a solar powered recharger can recharge your laptop or cell phone anywhere, so long as there is some sun in the sky. This means if you keep a solar charger in your laptop bag, you can keep your batteries topped up when you are out and about.

Making small changes such as changing Internet providers, using renewable energy to recharge our devices, choosing low energy technology and remembering to unplug mains adapters can go a long way in reducing our total energy consumption and help stem our rising energy demands.

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