Reducing standby power consumption
20 Nov, 2008 05:38 pm
When new electrical devices are bought, the mind of the consumer tends to be firmly on the purchase price. Producers and sellers often reinforce this bias by providing no meaningful information about the costs of ownership. A major effect thereof is that electricity consumption by electrical devices tends to be much higher than what would be possible with the best available cost-effective technology.
Household appliances that I checked had a standby electricity demand between 3 and 10 Watts. Setup boxes consumed in standby typically 10 W. When mobile phones would have such power consumption, there would be a lot less mobile communication, because batteries would often be empty when ringing should be heard or when one would like to call someone. This is at variance with what owners of mobile phones seem to prefer. So producers of mobile phones have usually put in technology that allows for a standby use of well under 0.1 Watt. No such pressure on producers apparently exists when appliances are linked to the power grid. There is now a flat panel LCD monitor with zero standby power consumption, but sales are still dominated by monitors with substantial standby power use because they are sold cheaper.
Such is the type of dilemma for which governments have been invented. The US has the Energy Star Programme for appliances which requires a maximum use of 1 Watt when on standby. I hope that one of the first deeds of president Obama will be to make a maximum of 1 Watt for standby power consumption mandatory for all appliances sold in the US. The European Union has announced that it may bring in legislation which will limit standby use to 1 or 2 Watt, depending on the type of appliance, by 2010. When a maximum standby power consumption of 1 Watt would be implemented worldwide, the overall effect thereof would easily dwarf worldwide plans to expand nuclear power. But still, there remains a nagging thought. Why would it be acceptable that grid-linked appliances are allowed to waste more electricity on standby than mobile communication devices?
(1) A.Meier (2008) Standby electricity use in California homes. AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 1044 issue 1, p 209-216