Unplug this blog!

How can I be energy efficient with my mobile device?


Posted by Tony Mauro

The hot topic today is mobile devices, be it tablets, smartphones, netbooks or laptops. Do you consider how to best use your mobile device to limit energy usage?

The battery uses energy too

One statement I hear quite frequently is: "My laptop uses less energy because I run it on the battery most of the time". This is a half-true statement.

When a laptop or netbook is running off its battery, there will be energy savings because the operating system will evoke power management features to keep the battery running as long as possible. However, that battery will need to be recharged at some point, and recharging a battery is not as efficient as powering a device directly.

Whenever an energy charge happens (from the power in the wall to the storage in the battery), losses will happen through the conversion. So if you have the choice, power a device directly.

The tablet and smartphone

If you haven't seen or heard of tablets (think iPad) or smartphones (think iPhone) it's quite likely you've been living on a different, less technologically-advanced, planet.

These two pieces of technology are popular because they are bridging the mobility and computing world. You can have almost all your computing needs in the size of device that fits in your pocket or can be carried like a book.

When I've asked people why they buy a tablet or smartphone it's usually to keep them connected on the road or when they travel. This is a great technology replacement for a laptop or netbook. It's not very often when you go on holidays that you need the power of a laptop – you need a device for web browsing or sending emails with photos to family members. This is where a tablet fits the bill.

Tablets are much lower in power consumption than a laptop or netbook and also have the added benefit of fitting into small places (think airplane). Because they are fine-tuned to run longer on a single battery charge, the draw to recharge the battery will be much less.

Charging smart

Did you know that leaving a charger plugged in even when it isn't charging still consumes energy? This is referred to as "standby power". In Canada it's estimated that standby power accounts for 50W of power draw 24/7 in a household. This works out to about 440kWh/year or around $40/year in energy costs.

Not all the standby power comes from chargers, but the more devices you have in the home charging, the larger that percentage becomes.

The solution for chargers is simple: plug them into a power bar and flip off the power bar switch when no devices are plugged in and charging. This also works for laptops and netbooks.

Right device, right place

Gadgets are fun, but you should always assess what your need is. For some people that could be getting by with only a tablet, while for others, a tablet and laptop may be the right combination day-to-day.

Reducing the number of gadgets to only those you need, will help prevent growth in power consumption in your home.

Use our Green Your Home guide for conservation tips, don't miss our energy saving rebates or join us on Facebook or Twitter.

Tony Mauro is a Power Smart engineer and a frequent contributor to both Unplug This Blog! and Future Shop's Check Out the Brand Blog.