The three major video-game consoles needlessly add a significant amount to consumers' electric bills each year, with much of the unnecessary energy use caused by people keeping their machines on when not in use, a national environmental group said this week.
The Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360 use nearly the same amount of power when idle as when active, the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a report released Wednesday. Yet people rarely use the automatic power-down features that turn off the PS 3 and Xbox when they are left idle for a certain amount of time. The feature is not available with the Wii.
The study found that the three consoles combined use about as much electricity in a year as every home in San Diego combined. "If you leave your Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 on all the time, you can cut your electric bill by as much as $100 a year simply by turning it off when you are finished playing," NRDC senior scientist Noah Horowitz said in a statement.
If people used existing power-saving features in the devices, and manufacturers tried harder to make the consoles more power efficient, consumers could save more than $1 billion a year in utility bills and reduce as much global warming pollution per year as tailpipe emissions from all the cars in San Jose, Calif., the NRDC said.
On average, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 use 150 watts and 119 watts of electricity, respectively, more than prior generations of the consoles, the group said. The two systems can each consume more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year if left on all the time, which is equal to the annual energy use of two new refrigerators. The Wii uses significantly less power when on -- less than 20 watts -- and uses slightly less power than the previous Nintendo console.
The PS 3 and Xbox 360 become extraordinary energy hogs when left on after operating as high-definition players. Under those conditions, the consoles operate at nearly peak energy levels, even after the movie ends, unless they are turned off. The PS 3 uses five times the power of a standalone Sony Blu-ray player.
The NRDC is working with the console manufacturers and software designers to help make energy-saving improvements to the consoles. In particular, the NRDC is working to make sure users will be able to automatically save their settings and place in the game before they shut down the systems, which might encourage people to shut off the systems when not in use.
A full copy of the report is available on the NRDC Web site.