(No, this post has nothing to do with a certain twenty-four-year-old, side-scrolling action game series.)
I read a survey today about how much energy videogame consoles use, which more or less boiled down to: Certain consoles can use about as much energy as your TV do to run, so you shouldn't leave them on (as in "on and running a game" or "on and sitting on the top-level system menu") for hours and hours when you're not actually gaming. And if you must, you should consider turning on sleep mode or having it auto-shutdown after however many hours.
Of course, I'd like to think (perhaps naively) that the readers of this blog are too savvy to randomly turn on any appliance and just let it run when they're not actually using it in any way, shape, or form.
So let's leave that discussion at that. Don't do that!
Instead, let's move on to something that everyone who owns a gaming console is far more likely to do!
There's something out there known as vampire power. Basically, many appliances that continue using power (and thus continue add to your energy bill in some way, shape or form) even when they are turned off.
We've already established that I'm a dork, so I may as well take it one step further and say that I am also an incredibly dorky gamer, and that at this very moment I have an Xbox 360, a Nintendo Wii, a Playstation 2, a Japanese Playstation 2, and a Nintendo DS plugged in. Yep, just sitting there. Plugged in. Waiting. That DS is fully charged, too, and probably has been for weeks, and it's still just sitting there. Plugged in.
I can't tell you how much energy any of those systems use when they're "off" compared to when they're in use, but I can guarantee that it's not "nothing at all." At the very least, nearly all the devices I just mentioned have a light that's on 100% of the time that tells you "this machine is not on right now." That light means they're, at the very least, still drawing enough energy to power that light. Most of them also have the ability to be turned on remotely, which means they draw power enough for that functionality, too.
But this is the case with a lot of electronics, actually, and as a general rule, you really should unplug anything if it's not in use for a long time. And if you have something that charges (like portable consoles or cell phones) you should unplug it when the device is at full power.
Personally, I am a bit flustered that I never even considered this until now. You'd think it might have occurred to me, after blogging here for so long! The best solution to this problem is, of course, just to unplug absolutely all the consoles unless they're needed. (And I can tell you, at least one of those hasn't been played for over a year, so I am pretty sure it doesn't need to be plugged in 24/7.) The slightly lazier (and less ideal) option would be to plug everything into a power strip, and only turn that on when I need it.
But either way, it's always useful to look at the electronics you use the most and see if you can find a way to turn them off—off and completely unplugged, or off and on a power strip that's turned off—for even a little bit every day. Even if something uses minimal power when it's "off," it's still using power, and that can accumulate over time.
Elizabeth Spencer is a communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.