Video game systems: Energy vampires?

Since October is Energy Awareness Month, we wanted to share the latest research on video game energy consumption. Energy Services Representative Paula Fronk, at the Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, and her son Brady undertook the investigation of a common household energy consumer—the video game system.

With more than 40 percent of all homes in the United State owning video game consoles, the Natural Resource Defense Council estimates that these consoles consume about 16 billion kilowatt-hours each year—roughly, the electricity annually used by the city of San Diego. These deceptively small but greedy energy thieves are driving up electric bills, particularly in homes with multiple game systems or gamers.

The Fronk family found evidence that some systems use significantly more energy than others. Even so, the total energy consumption over a year is minor until you factor in the monitor’s energy use. Also, leaving the game in “idle” mode for hours on end to save a gaming session or downloading content consumes almost as much power as active play. If there is more than one gamer in the house, the electricity use—and dollars—can really add up.

I’ve seen our electric bill,” admitted Brady as he became more aware of the different aspects of energy use. “Playing isn’t the only way gaming uses electricity. When you download a game over the Internet, it can take hours, and the computer or system has to be on the whole time. Imagine thousands of people downloading those games. The energy use is amazing.”

To see the console energy use results and hear more about this topic, see the Energy Services Bulletin’s August 2010 issue. The ESB monthly provides energy related articles.

You can also download the pdf “Video Games: Energy Heist?” fact sheet, from Energy Services’ site.