Video games can be energy hogs. Three tips to cut your power bill.

In the US, video games consume billions of kWh of energy annually, but users can cut their power bills.

A visitor plays the Xbox 360 game 'Lost Planet Extreme Conditions' at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Video games use 16 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually in the US.

Got a new video-game console on your holiday wish list this year? Here's something to think about: In the US, where 40 percent of homes contain at least one, video game consoles consume 16 billion kilowatt hours of energy yearly. That's enough to power the entire city of San Diego for about 12 months, say the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ecos Consulting, which conducted a study on the energy-efficiency of various game consoles last year.

You'd figure that number -- and what you're paying for each kWh -- would only grow in the future. But there are some things that you, manufacturers, and software developers can do to lessen the impact, the study suggests.

Here are three tips on how to save energy and cut your power bill:

1. Choose a console that uses less energy [PDF]. The Nintendo Wii is the power miser of the group tested, Xbox 360 is in the middle, and Sony PS3 uses the most energy if left on all the time. (See No. 3.)

2. Don't watch movies on your game console. According to Noah Horowitz of NRDC, "movie playback on the PS3 uses four to five times as much power as that of a stand-alone BluRay player."

3. Turn off the console when you're not actively playing. It uses almost as much energy if left on when you're not playing as it does when you are. With any of the big 3 video games, you can cut your annual energy cost drastically simply by saving the game and turning the console off when you leave the room. You may have to save the game you're playing and turn off the console manually. But the amount of money you'll save in electricity makes it worthwhile to hunt up your direction book and figure out how to do it.

Admittedly, there are issues with some of the power savers, so that may be why an estimated 50 percent of players don't shut down their systems when they finish a session.

As Mr. Horowitz told Mother Nature Network:

In the case of the Xbox 360, the feature takes way too long before it kicks in; the box needs to sit there for a full six hours before it goes into standby. In the case of the PlayStation 3, it can potentially shut down during movie playback, so people might disable it.

You can read the whole study as a PDF here. It's an eye-opener, especially this time of year.

Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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