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Energy Efficient Gadgets – How Efficient Are They?

May 3, 2012

So you’re talking on your smartphone while tapping away on your iPad. In the meantime on the flat screen TV, CNN is keeping you updated on market share prices, and you’ve got a cordless phone ready at hand to take any calls on your landline.

You are well equipped to handle the stresses and strains of modern day life, and because technology has improved so much, you’re also saving energy thanks to your energy efficient gadgets.

But are you really saving energy?

You might be surrounded by all this hi-tech stuff but you have to ask yourself: just how environmentally friendly are these so-called energy efficient gadgets and are they really as energy efficient as they claim to be?

1. iPad

Apple loves to tell everyone how environmentally friendly they are; in fact, it’s one of their biggest selling points. Take the new iPad for example:

  • Display: arsenic & mercury free
  • Body: recyclable aluminium & glass
  • Power: uses 1/5 the power needed to run a fluorescent light bulb

But what they don’t tell you is:

  • CO2 emissions from 1 iPad equals the CO2 output of a 515-mile drive
  • Average emissions from all 55 million iPads sold to date (all models including iPad 3 – 7,590,000 kg CO2), equals the emissions of 1.2 million cars in one year
  • Only 13.6% of its electronics are recycled
  • 100 megawatts of power is needed to run iCloud and iTunes for 1 year

2. Flat Screen TVs

We love our flat screen TVs! I mean we really love them! And the good news is that they are actually now more energy efficient than ever before, especially when compared to the old CRT type televisions that many of us grew up with. Flat screen TVs are divided into 2 categories: plasma and LCD, with LCDs being the more energy efficient of the two.


  • Average energy use: 301 watts
  • Consumes on average roughly 2 to 3 times more electricity to produce an image of the same brightness as LCD
  • In plasma TVs, each pixel is a light source (i.e., a tiny light bulb), so when resolution increases (e.g. from 720p to 1080p), power use goes up as well


  • Average energy use: LCD (standard): 111 watts; LCD (LED): 101 watts
  • The image is created by a backlight shining through an LCD panel
  • Due to pixels residing in the panel rather than the backlight, power use is largely independent of resolution
  • Many LCDs conserve additional power by automatically turning the backlight down during dark scenes and back up during bright ones
  • Many newer LCDs use LED as opposed to fluorescent (CCFL) backlights, which are more efficient, can use various dimming technologies to turn down either the entire backlight or independent sections, both of which save power

3. Smartphones

Smartphones and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand, don’t they? By putting your smartphone into power saving mode, you’re saving tons of energy and extending the battery life, right? Well…maybe not so much. In fact, all that the power saving mode does is shut off your phone’s screen. Because your smartphone is programmed to constantly search for a clear signal in order to receive messages, it goes into what is known as “idle mode“, which means it’s still very active. What you probably didn’t realize is that idle mode can consume as much power as if the phone was sending and receiving messages all day.

Furthermore, a recent study by researcHERS® at Stanford University revealed that most websites use what they termed as “bloated code”, which accounts for large energy consumption when using smartphones to browse the Internet. What that means is that these websites aren’t optimized for mobile browsing, leading to increased smartphone energy usage. And interestingly, the Apple and Wikipedia websites are two of the biggest culprits. So much for all that hype about smartphones being energy efficient gadgets! However, there is hope: a Finnish research team at Aalto University near Helsinki has come up with a solution. By using a combination of new software and network proxy hardware, they were able to reduce smartphone energy consumption by over 70%.

4. Cordless Phones

If you’re looking for a cordless phone, doubtless you’ll be told to go for one that had DECT 6.0 technology. Sounds impressive, right? It must be energy efficient! The thing is, DECT 6.0 is only the digital communication standard that the phone operates on (DECT: Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication); it has no influence on whether the phone is energy efficient or not. What you should be looking for is whether the set has an ECO mode or not; fortunately, many brands do. The ECO mode can:

  • Cut energy usage by up to 60% depending on brand and model
  • Enhance battery life
  • Increase talk time

When you’re shopping around for your smart devices, or for any other electronic energy efficient gadgets for that matter, look for the ENERGY STAR logo. If a product has been ENERGY STAR certified, then you can be sure that it is far more energy efficient than similar ones that don’t carry the ENERGY STAR seal.

Tip for Reducing Energy Consumption on Your Plasma TV