Saving Energy: A Myth?

Since deciding to change my sustainable behavior to unplugging my chargers, I have noticed a huge difference. I am increasingly aware of the fact when I leave my chargers in and have found myself unplugging them almost any time I leave my room- even the extension chord that is behind my bed and quite difficult to get to. Interestingly enough, this behavior has already become habit for me without much effort.  I think maybe because I am so used to being contentious about my other sustainable behaviors such as; only using one paper towel, always bringing my own water bottle, and recycling whatever I can, that adding one new minor habit wasn’t too big of a deal for me. I definitely still forget sometimes but for the most part I have been pretty good about it.

Upon research of how my behavior change is actually helping the environment I was pretty shocked. I found multiple websites explaining how, even though unplugging chargers saves some energy, it is a pretty miniscule amount in the grand scheme of things. One website was a blog detailing an experiment the blogger did. He plugged in three phone chargers, a laptop, a pocket PC, battery charger and attached a power-measuring meter. With all 6 chargers plugged in, the meter only read 1 Watt. He deduced that phone chargers consume less that .5W when left plugged in when the total power consumption of a person daily is 50000W. Seems pretty small in comparison!


The website I linked (different than the blog) also spoke of what little impact leaving chargers in has.  According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Library, the average cell phone draws 3.68 watts of power while it’s charging and only 2.24 when it’s already charged. Ipods are similar- they only take about 0.25 to 0.4 watts of energy when fully charged. As quoted by Cambridge Professor David MacKay, obsessively unplugging your charger is like “bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon. By all means do it, but be aware of how tiny a gesture it is.” He noted that keeping your phone charger unplugged all year is like skipping one hot bath. So maybe I should be reducing my water consumption instead?

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