Study: Americans still love their gadgets, but smarter tech means less energy consumption | The American Ceramic Society

Study: Americans still love their gadgets, but smarter tech means less energy consumption


[Image above] Does our love for our gadgets outweigh our desire to use less energy? Maybe so, but at least our smarter smart gadgets mean that despite our increased reliance on consumer electronics, we’re using less energy. Credit: andrius.v; Flickr; CC BY NC-SA 2.0

Got gadgets? Of course you do. We all do.

As a society (lower case “S”), we crave the “latest and greatest” not necessarily because there’s anything wrong with the “older and still okay”—but because having new things makes us feel good. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

If you’re looking for justification for a new purchase, you just may be in luck.

A new study shows that despite the fact that U.S. households use more consumer electronic devices than ever before, our electronics are more energy efficient than they’ve ever been. Thanks to smart TVs and a growing shift from desktop to tablet, in 2013 there was a significant decline in the amount of energy our smarter household electronics require.

How significant?

The study by Fraunhofer USA (commissioned by the Consumer Electronics Association) shows that our 3.8 billion residential consumer electronics—from laptops to tablets and every thing in between—consumed approximately 169 TWh of electricity. When the same study was conducted in 2010, the 2.9 billion devices owned by Americans consumed 193 TWh—or 12 percent more energy.

The biggest energy hog, both then and now, are our televisions.

TVs—the most widely owned consumer electronic device in the U.S., according to Gigaom—outnumber people in the United States (some 338 million in 2013). They also lay claim to the gadget with the highest energy consumption—accounting for a whopping 30 percent of total energy used by household electronics. But as older and less-efficient tube televisions increasingly find their way to the dumpster and make way for LCDs and LEDs, energy consumption by our TVs has dropped by 20 percent.

Another shift that’s shifting the amount of energy our electronics consume is the migration from bulky desktop computer or even laptop to the ultimate in portable computing—the tablet and smartphone.

Tablet ownership increased by 10-fold from 2011 to 2013, and tablets use 8.8 times less energy than laptops or netbooks. But even tablets are less efficient than smartphones, used more and more for personal computing.

If you’d like to sift through the 158-page report, you can click here to read it in full.