Cutting the hidden costs of your new console
By James Fritz Monday 21 December 2015
It's the box that many people most want to see as they tear open their wrapping paper: a brand new games console with a couple of the latest games thrown in.
What many people don’t think about, however, are the hidden costs - both to your bank balance and to the environment. With the console having long since made the move from simple gaming machine to all round entertainment hub, we use them more and more.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that - depending on how many you own and which brand - regular console use can cost you between £45 and £80 a year.
So what can you do to keep down the monetary and environmental cost of your new toy?
1. Make sure you turn it off when not in use.
If you’re one of the 40% of console owners that leave their console on when they’re not using them, it’s time to change your ways.
Yes, they might take slightly longer to boot up, but all that cumulative standby time is no good for the environment - or your wallets. Leaving your TV and console on standby means it is constantly using electricity. Over the course of year this can really add up - so once you've finished a gaming session or a Netflix binge take the time to bend down and flick that switch.
2. If you forget, buy a socket timer
At around a fiver, a socket timer is a sound investment for the more forgetful gamer, allowing you to pop the console into standby and let the timer do the rest. You can set the socket to turn off the machine during hours when it definitely won’t be used - such as when you’re at work or asleep. It also allows you to leave the console on standby for a short while in order to download updates without draining power twenty four hours a day to do so.
3. Choose the right console
Let’s get the difficult bit out of the way first: the PS4 and Xbox One both consume three times as much energy as their predecessors 181 kWh/year and 300 kWh/year, respectively so the best thing you can do for the environment is actually to stick with that old console you’ve had knocking around for years.
Image via ExpertReviews
According to the NRDC, the most energy efficient current generation console is actually the Wii U, which has been found to use as little as 37 kWh/year. What's more, the Wii U is the only console that is more energy efficient than its predecessor.
Image via Trusted Reviews
If you're set on upgrading to the current generation (and we’re guessing you are) but you’re not much of a Mario fan, the Playstation is far more energy efficient than its Microsoft counterpart. Although the PS4 uses more power in almost every mode, the Xbox One uses more in the one that matters most: connected standby. Due the the Xbox’s voice command function the machine is constantly ‘listening’ in standby mode, meaning that it uses 18W of power compared to the PS4’s 8.8W. Since your console will likely spend far more time in standby than it will being used, the Xbox One will use far more energy over the course of its lifetime.
4. Use it wisely
Thankfully there are a few simple things you can do to cut down on your new console’s energy consumption.
The Xbox One has an energy-saving power mode which prevents it from receiving updates and has a slightly longer waking-up time. We’ve already discussed how the Xbox One’s voice command feature can use a lot of energy during standby, so make sure you turn it off when not absolutely necessary. If you use the Kinect motion sensor, keeping that disabled when not in use will also cut down on energy.
The PS4 has a setting that automatically turns the controllers off while not in use, as well as an auto shutdown feature that detects when the console has been inactive for a specified period of time. Make sure both of these are activated.
Finally, streaming content through a games console uses up a great deal more energy than streaming through a laptop, tablet or energy-efficient Smart TV, while data from the NRDC shows that playing a blu-ray on an Xbox One or a PS4 uses roughly four times as much energy than on a standard blu-ray player. While it can be tempting to use your new console to do everything, it’s sometimes better to take a horses for courses approach and keep the console just for gaming.
5. Recycle your old console
So you’re all set up and have tuned your new best friend to be as energy efficient as possible. There’s only one question left to answer - what do with your faithful old console? If you decide to dispose of it, it’s important that you do so ethically and don’t just throw it in the bin.
Image via Get Well Gamers
If the machine is in good working order you can sell it to someone you know will use it, offsetting some of the running costs of your new console. Or, if you’re feeling generous, there are plenty of places. We like the look of Get Well Gamers, a company that provides consoles and games to hospitals.
Failing that, the Xbox website offers a handy list of approved recycling organisations that will provide you with a safe, ethical way of disposing with your equipment, while there are several companies that will offer to do the same for your Playstation or Wii.
All stats via the Energy Saving Trust unless otherwise stated.