Video game consoles are growing energy hogs


The amount of energy consumed by video game consoles has increased by almost 50 percent between 2007 and 2010 in the U.S., according to a report out from Carnegie Mellon University (hat tip CNET). As of 2010 game consoles consumed 16 TWh of energy in the U.S., which is about 1 percent of U.S residential electricity consumption.

The energy consumption increase was due partly to the basic fact that overall sales of game consoles have increased. The report found that by the end of 2010, there were over 75 million video game consoles sold via Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii, and Sony’s Play-
Station 3.

But another part of the problem is that the latest consoles have much more high performance computing power, than previous generation consoles. Users are turning to video game consoles to do more than just gaming and consoles can be used to play movies and music and connect to the web.

While the increase in sales, and the increase in performance of game consoles is generally all well and good (we’re not advocating those to go away), the growth in energy consumption is also coming with the estimate that consoles are not powering down and going into idle mode as efficiently as they can. For example the report found that “an average user that never powers down a current model Xbox 360 will consume more than ten times electricity as a similar user who always powers down the console after use.”

That’s the real problem. The report says that there needs to be a much greater incorporation of a default auto power down feature in the consoles, which could lead to electricity consumption reduction of 75 percent and a saving of $1 billion per year in consumer electricity bills.

The report adds that there is a level of uncertainty when trying to study consumer behavior in terms of how often or not they power down their machines after use. But the report accounts for the uncertainty in its results and recommendations.


Steve K

I thought this article was about game consoles sapping the energy of today’s youth. And the contribution to childhood obesity. ;-)

Actually, game consoles are pretty inefficient all the way around. To minimize latency, they run full bore all the time. They are also internet bandwidth hogs for the same reason. There is much that could be done in terms of dynamic response to demand, power and pipe scaling. When the original Macintosh factory was in Fremont, there was an internal shop floor control network that worked by sensing the CPU activity of a receiving machine and adjusting the packet size so as to not bog down those early 7MHz machines. Modern cars turn cylinders on and off dynamically to adjust power output to demand. Surely a game console can dynamically adjust it’s operation to the demands of what it’s doing at the moment.

Simon Cohen

I wouldn’t worry about power consumption while people are gaming – only the truly addicted (a small percentage of users) are going to be gaming for long enough durations to warrant a re-think. I’m more concerned that people aren’t powering down their consoles when done gaming. Not only is that a ridiculous waste of energy, it will lead to early failure of components and costly repairs. Consoles, just like any other piece of electronics, should automatically go into a sleep mode after a user-adjustable period of inactivity.

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