Saving When Gaming

By Hannah McKenzie

Saving When Gaming

Q: My kids love playing video games. I am worried my electricity bills could be impacted by the amount of time they play games on the television and their computers. How do video games factor into energy use?

A: Kids in the U.S. typically spend 5 to 9 hours each day consuming electronic media with their phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices. What this means for your electricity bill depends on what devices they use for gaming and if the devices are set to use as little energy as possible.

Typically, video games are played using a computer or game console. Using an Energy Star® certified laptop to play these games will use the least amount of energy, although many video games are not available on a laptop.

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A 2014 study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) compares the power consumption of the three most popular consoles: Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation®4, and Nintendo’s Wii UTM.

Game consoles are in almost half of all U.S. homes. A 2014 study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) compared the power consumption of the three most popular consoles: Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation®4, and Nintendo’s Wii UTM.

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One provide higher caliber graphics and gaming than the Wii U, which justifies their higher energy consumption. In 2014, the NRDC recommended software and hardware changes to lessen energy used by the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Some improvements have been made.

To use the least amount of energy when gaming, try the following:

  • Turn off the console when it is not in use. When electronics are off, they still consume electricity. Optimally the consumption is only 0.5 watts, but not Xbox’s voice recognition feature that sucks 14 watts. Deactivate this feature to reap more savings.
  • Keep the console software up to date which will ensure that you benefit from new energy-saving features.
  • Adjust the power settings on the console so an hour or less of inactivity puts it in standby mode.
  • Use an Energy Star television or projector in energy-saver mode for your video display.

In the last decade, game consoles have added new features, such as the ability to stream online video and music and play DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. In ALL of these cases, an Energy Star certified device — television, set-top box, DVD player, Blu-ray player, or audio device — will use less energy than a game console. While it may be convenient to stream Netflix through your game console, it will inevitably use more energy than Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast or your smart Energy Star television. Likewise, connecting set-top cable boxes through gaming consoles will use much more energy than connecting them directly to your television.

The devices used to play video games can offer hours of entertainment and can use less energy with the right settings. It’s a matter of knowing the right moves.

Visit bit.ly/EnergyStar for more energy-saving tips and a step-by-step guide to setting the power settings on the Xbox One and PlayStation®4.

About the Author

Hannah McKenzie is a residential building science consultant at Advanced Energy in Raleigh who specializes in working with nonprofit developers like Habitat for Humanity to make new affordable housing energy efficient.

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