The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently released a study regarding the power usage of consoles. During the course of the study it found that gamers who leave their consoles powered on all the time spend more than $100 a year to leave their game console idle.
At first glance this appeared to be a damning study, especially if the NRDC defined "on" as a console left in standby mode; however the actual definition of "on" for this study was leaving the console completely up and running.
The cost of leaving your console on all the time varies, but no matter which console you choose, never turning it off is costly. Leaving your PS3 on all the time will cost between $130 and $160 depending on which version you have, compared to under $15 if it is turned off when it's not being played. Similarly the Xbox 360 costs between $100 and $140 if left on all the time but under $14 if turned off when you're done. The Wii is the most power efficient; only costing $10 if left on all the time, compared to $3 if turned off when it isn't in use. Leaving it on is still wasting $7, however.
There's no question that this kind of usage will lead to increased energy usage, but more importantly, why would you be leaving your console on at all times? It's no surprise that modern consoles use large amounts of energy or that they get very warm after extended periods of use. With this in mind, there's no reason to be leaving your console on 24/7 unless of course it doubles as your space heater and egg fryer!
Aside from the extra energy cost from leaving your console on all the time; users also face the increased likelihood that they will need to replace the console sooner. Microsoft issued a huge warranty extension earlier this year in response to console failures which were blamed on overheating consoles.
Even for those people who are leaving their console on for a "good reason," like the Playstation Folding@Home project, are wasting money. If you are doing it to give back to a charity, rather than to simply look at the cool light up map displayed on your PS3, your impact be magnified by giving $100 to a related group rather than your local utility company. As an added bonus, your donation of money rather than CPU cycles is also more environmentally friendly and tax deductible.
The study issues several recommendations for console and game makers to improve the energy usage including auto power off functions and providing users with the ability to save their games at any point. The study admits that the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 both have power off options but notes that they are difficult to find. Leaving your console on all the time isn't just wasteful; it's also lazy and a good way to shorten the life of your console.
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