19 Comments

Summary:

The growing number of devices in our daily lives means that we are consuming more and more electricity. This is something that worries lots of people, including me. A new study from a Palo Alto-based not-for-profit group takes a look at thte iPad’s energy consumption habits.

New iPad
photo: Apple

If you are like me, then you are constantly using your iPad all the time. I like to run my iPad at full brightness and I am almost always connected to the Internet. And that means frequent visits to the electrical outlet — at least twice a day. And as result I often fret about how much energy I am using on my iPad and other devices, and how they are impacting my carbon footprint.

Some new research from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) breaks down how much an iPad costs in terms of electricity and how much energy all the world’s iPads consume. EPRI calculations show that the annual cost of charging an iPad every other day is about $1.36 a year.

The analysis shows that each model of the iPad consumes less than 12 kWh of elelctricity over the course of a year, based on a full charge every other day. By comparison, a plasma 42” television consumes 358 kWh of electricity a year. EPRI conducted the analysis in Knoxville, Tenn., at its power utilization laboratory. Costs may vary depending on what region that a consumer resides and the price of electricity in a particular location. The assessment was conducted to determine the load requirements – the amount of power needed to operate the devices — of the increasingly popular iPad.

But when you  multiply those kilowatts by millions of iPads being sold, the energy impact on the planet starts to add up pretty quickly. According to EPRI calculations:

the average energy used by all iPads in the market is approximately 590 gigawatt hours (GWh). In a scenario where the number of iPads tripled over the next two years, the energy required would be nearly equivalent to two 250-megawatt (MW) power plants operating at a 50 percent utilization rate. A quadrupling of sales in two years would require energy generated by three 250-MW power plants

Our measurements indicate that new iPads will consume about 65 percent more electricity per year. Other products that were included in the analysis were laptop PCs, which consume 72.3 kWh of electricity each year and cost consumers $8.31 and 60W CFL light bulbs which consume approximately 14 kWh of electricity and cost consumers $1.61 a year.

They also calculate that the Apple iPhone 3G consumes 2.2 kWh of electricity each year, which results in a power cost of $0.25 annually.

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  1. Andrew Rollason Thursday, June 21, 2012

    But is there not a substitution effect to take into account; that some of your iPad use would otherwise have taken place using a laptop, desktop or TV?

    1. Heh. Where’s Apple BOD member big Al Gore when you need him?

    2. Andrew

      I am one of those – my laptop and TV usage has declined drastically and when I need to watch the big screen, I use AirPlay.

  2. I agree with Andrew. Most of the time that I spend using my iPad is time that I am not using my HP laptop which definitely consumes a lot more power. I would think that increasing adoption of tablets would lower computer related electricity use on per capita basis, not raise it.

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing.

      1. Same here though in my case I am using my Macbook Air less and less.

    2. I agree Beau. We should be using lower power devices for our web and media needs. However, the energy consumed to manufacture our laptops and tablets usually greatly exceeds the energy that the consumer will ever use by charging it. So the culture of having multiple devices and buying the latest model of the next i-thing is what the energy conscience should be concerned with.

  3. I must say the thoughts shared by all comments about the substitution seems very obvious to me as well. How’d you miss that one OM? Also, in terms of the iPad as an e-Reader, have we considered the difference in carbon footprint of the hundreds of books, newspapers and articles which were not printed to paper?

    1. Since we are talking of substitution, consider the amount of time, efforts,costs for recycling a iPad vs recycling a book, newspaper ans suddenly iPad isn’t green. Green tech is when you have something completely recyclable

      1. really, cause I read hundreds of books a year. And since I now read ebooks exclusively, there is a huge benefit in less recycled waste, less delivery related pollution, less automobile travel.

        This OM article is like a lot of “green” discussions; barely scratches the surface rather then conducting an exhaustive look at the benefits. It is obvious to every one of the readers: iPad consumes less energy then desktop or laptop, and produces less e-waste when recycled, and probably has about the same product life as either. Come on! Bottom line your article with what the REAL environmental benefits are. Not that difficult.

  4. Must be nice to have 20 hours of free time a day to sit around and waste on the iPad.

    1. Matt

      For some of us it is enough to do work on. I can read all the blogs, twiter etc, do most of the important daily tasks – read and reply to emails, communicate using Socialcast with our team, pay bills etc on my iPad and when I need to write, I can easily use an Apple keyboard to bang out a blog post, much like this one. So yes, I am glad I have an iPad for most of my day, though I wish I had more free time.

  5. Before I spent all my time on my ipad, I drove around the city in my pickup truck cum barbecue on wheels giving out free, freshly smoked ribs. I’d say my carbon footprint has dropped.

    it’s true!

    1. Dude … put that ipad down and get back out there!

    2. If you are giving out the smoked ribs, we don’t really mind your carbon footprint. Shit that is a tasty reason. Where do we call you?

  6. FULL brightness? Holy hell, man! I never go above 50% unless I’m sitting outside in direct sunlight.

  7. Om: I’d argue that the net impact is negative since they represent a very power efficient device replacing very power inefficient devices – consider all the PCs being used less. And if you wanted to get really technical about it, consider the beneficial impact of time shifting – most iPads are charged at night when demand is less meaning we have less peak load meaning fewer power plants.

  8. Mary Rowell Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Doesn’t scream a market opportunity to develop and sell solar chargers? There are solar chargers for phones, why not package it up as part of your apple purchase…come on Tim Cook and Apple Inc…put your marketing hats on.

  9. Alexander Kolomietz Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    this article makes you think that unlike iPads and iPhones, all those Android device actually produce energy…

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