Flatpanel TVs use more power than some refrigerators, according to a report in the New York Times.
The proliferation of personal computers, iPods, cellphones, game consoles and all the rest amounts to the fastest-growing source of power demand in the world. Americans now have about 25 consumer electronic products in every household, compared with just three in 1980.
Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15 percent of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, making it more difficult to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.
To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants, according to the agency.
Attempts to introduce US energy standards for electronic gadgets are being overtaken by the sheer volume of gadgets the average household now has. Many of these appliances are constantly on standby and drawing power.
Noah Horowitz, at the Natural Resources Defense Council, calculated that the nation’s gaming consoles, like the Xbox 360 from Microsoft and the Sony PlayStation 3, now use about the same amount of electricity each year as San Diego, the ninth-largest city in country.
In New Zealand the Energy Conservation and Efficiency Authority (EECA) has mandatory standards in place for kitchen and laundry equipment. The EECA awards the international benchmark Energy Star marks for categories of electrical appliances which are not subject to regulation and which meet stringent efficiency requirements - normally the top 25% of appliances available in the marketplace.
What can we do as consumers? Firstly, check what electronic appliances are turned on, and possibly in standby mode. You might be surprised how much power these gadgets are drawing.
Secondly, do you really need the latest 40" HD LCD TV or home theatre system? Some of us are managing with older, dependable, cathode-ray TVs that provide all the visual and auditory information required.
Thirdly, if you're buying new appliances, check the Energy Star rating.
Leaving aside any planet-saving advantages, electronic gear is ugly and detracts from quality interior design; you rarely see TVs and home theatre systems featured in home-and-garden type magazines.