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Take control of your gadget energy use

You might be surprised how much energy televisions, computers and gadgets use. A few simple tips can help take control of your energy use and save you money.

Across the country, 3.8 billion electronic devices are installed in homes and collectively, they require up to 67 large power-plants worth of energy and cost $22 billion to run each year, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Many of these devices such as DVR systems and game consoles use energy even when no one’s using them – an average of $165 dollars every year per household.

Here are a few tips from the NRDC to take control of your gadget energy use:


Saving energy can start in the store with the types of electronics you purchase. The ENERGY STAR logo identifies the most efficient products on the market including TVs, computers and appliances. If you are considered buying a new high-definition TV, look for ENERGY STAR models that can save up to two to three times the electricity.

2. Change settings for energy efficiency

Set up your devices at home to be more energy efficient.


  • Skip screensavers, which use more electricity than simply letting the screen go dark.
  • Set the screen to switch off after 15 minutes of inactivity and the computer to go to sleep after 30 minutes or less.


  • Disable “quick start” (sometimes also called “instant on”): This feature powers up your television a few seconds faster, but it can also run up your energy bills by continuing to use excessive power in standby mode even when the viewer thinks the TV is turned off. You can disable “quick start” on the settings menu and cut standby energy use from up to 30 watts to less than half a watt.
  • Make sure “automatic brightness control”(ABC) is enabled: Many new TVs include a feature where the TV’s sensor measures the light level in the room and automatically adjusts the screen brightness levels. This ABC results in energy savings of roughly 50 percent when viewing TV in a dimly lit room, such as nighttime when televisions are most frequently used.
  • Request a whole-home DVR for homes that have multiple TVs hooked up to pay-TV service providers such as cable or satellite. If you’re buying a second or third television for your home, ask your service provider for a whole-home DVR system, which uses one main box for the main TV, and much lower energy using devices called “thin clients” for the other TVs in the home. Each set-top box should meet ENERGY STAR™ Version 4.1 efficiency levels.

3. Use energy-saving devices

        Smart power strips

The newest smart power strips can sense when the TV or computer is turned off and will power down plugged-in peripherals like the DVD player, game console and surround-sound speakers. Many strips include “hot sockets” for devices like cell phone chargers to charge while other devices are turned off.

        Kill-a-Watt Meter

This simple $20 gadget helps you pinpoint which appliances are costing you energy. Plug in electric devices to see how much power they use. For example, a “turned off” DVR draws around 20 watts of power even though you’re not watching or recording a show.

        Programmable thermostat

No home with central heating or air conditioning should be without one. These thermostats make sure your furnace warms the house when you need it and automatically dials back when you aren’t home. A programmable thermostat can reduce annual heating and cooling energy use by 20 to 30 percent, possibly saving as much ad $180 annually on utility bills.


Devices that only need to be on at specific times and can be turned off at other times can be plugged into a timer. For example, if you have a hot-water recirculation pump to reduce hot water waiting time, a timer can avoid having it run 24/7 even when you’re asleep or away and no one is using hot water.

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