The vampire energy suckers

OK, so the Halloween link is a little tenuous, but no doubt you, like me, are currently surrounded by gadgets and gizmos that despite their so-called energy lean credentials, suck the power right out of our sockets on a daily basis … unnecessarily.

Chief among the most popular offenders in our house is the broadband router, which we really should unplug at night. Another item pricking my guilty conscious is my laptop, which runs most of the morning on battery but tends to get left connected to the power socket throughout the afternoon and evening, though it does get shut down properly at night. Interestingly, Skype lets you catch other likely offenders – I'll mention no names, but there are a couple of my contacts in later time zones who I regularly see are 'live' when I log on early in the morning …

One of the most popular power consumption offences, apparently, is to leave the mobile phone charger plugged into the wall (though happily I can say I am not guilty here thanks to the obsessive-compulsive nature of my husband in this respect). Many consumers are unaware that phone chargers continue to drain electricity when disconnected from the phone but left plugged into the wall socket – it has been estimated that up to two thirds of the energy used by mobile devices is wasted in this way.

Mobile phone makers are attempting to solve this power wastage. Last year, a group of mobile manufacturers introduced a common energy rating system for chargers, making it easier for consumers to choose those that save the most energy. And with the signing of an agreement by some of the world's largest handset vendors, it looks like a common charger could be introduced next year (2010). The MoU submitted to the European Commission by Apple, LG, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Texas Instruments, proposed the Micro-USB connector as the common standard. Let's hope the common charger becomes the most efficient charger too.

Elsewhere, other power-saving initiatives include one to encourage take-up of off-grid charging solutions. Just this week, a report from the GSM Association (GSMA) suggested that up to 500 million mobile users (more than 10 percent of global subscribers) in emerging countries could benefit from off-grid charging solutions such as solar phones or external solar chargers. GSMA, intent on selling the idea to operators, points out that this represents a '$2.3 billion opportunity', potentially boosting average revenues per user by 10 to 14 percent. But, of-course, it's not just off-grid markets that could benefit. Think of all those power stations that could be left 'on standby' if we could be bothered to unplug our wall chargers and start trickle charging our mobile phones using solar power?

Can I make a suggestion (which I promise to do too), when you go to bed tonight, think first of all those energy vampires at large? Check out the TV, DVD, microwave, dishwasher and printer. Of-course, if you can switch off at the wall socket then so much the better for you, though I notice that outside the UK, plugs with on/off switches are surprisingly rare. Indeed, aesthetic reasons, sadly, may be behind the scarcity of switcheable plug sockets, and televisions with on/off buttons for that matter.

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