Going backwards in energy efficiency.

Just when we can afford it least, a British conservation group has released a study showing that new technology–computers, flat-screen televisions, etc.–will soon overtake household appliances as the biggest energy hogs in most British homes.

Flat-screen televisions, computers and other hi-tech gadgets will use nearly half of a typical British household’s total electricity by 2020, an energy conservation body said in a report on Wednesday.

Britain’s Energy Saving Trust (EST) said consumer electronics will overtake kitchen appliances and lighting as the biggest single drain on domestic power.

Its report, “The Ampere Strikes Back,” said new devices are often more power-hungry than earlier models and many are left on standby rather than being switched off. Some don’t even have an “off” button.

I’m not sure electronics will surpass heating & cooling as they biggest energy users in American homes, but no doubt U.S. consumers are adopting these new technologies in even greater numbers than British.

Two solutions as I see it:

  1. Mandate that manufacturers redesign their systems to not use so much electricity when in stand-by mode. Something like 70% of electronics’ total lifetime energy consumption is when they are in stand-by mode.
  2. Provide incentives for consumers to plug their electronics into Smart Power Strips.  These nifty devices allow you to automatically shut off all auxiliary systems when you power down a main device.  For example, your printer, scanner, speakers, and monitor when you shut off your computer.

Ultimately, #1 needs to happen.  But in the meantime, let’s do #2.

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