Is your game console running? Better go catch it.
Video game fan? You may not be as green as you think.
A report out Tuesday found that the Playstation 3 (PS3) and XBox 360, if left on all the time, can consume as much energy over a year as two new refrigerators.
The paper released by the National Resources Defense Council charted increased sales of gaming consoles, measured the individual systems' power use, and looked at average playing habits to come up with some pretty eye-popping conclusions. Among them:
• US video game consoles use an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year – roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego.
• More than 40 percent of US households now contain at least one video game console.
• The Nintendo Wii costs heavy users just $10 a year to run. Similar use of the XBox 360 and PS3 can annually cost close to $150.
Most consoles now include a power-saving auto shut-off feature, but such features are often buried in hard-to-find settings menus, and are off by default. Compounding consoles' power-hungry ways, the report said, are games that don't allow users to save their progress, causing some players to leave them on all the time.
To remedy these problems, the report recommends that manufacturers include an automatic power-down feature in new consoles that reduces energy consumption after one to three hours of idle time. Also on the list of recommendations is a sleep button on game controllers, and more efficient processor design.
One of the major selling points of next-generation gaming consoles is their ability to do more than just play games. Consoles now can be used as internet devices, media storage centers, and high-definition movie disc players.
The PS3 is often referenced as a best buy, because of its ability not only to play games, but to play Blu-ray discs as well. But that multitasking comes at a cost: The report found that when playing a Blu-ray disc, a Playstation 3 uses more than five times the power of a standalone Sony Blu-ray player. Zap! And neither the PS3 nor the Xbox 360 offers any power management features to the user related to movie play.
With all this rampant power consumption, maybe it's time for video games to take a cue from the mobile phone charger industry. The world's top-five cell phone makers on Wednesday launched a ratings system to help buyers decipher the most efficient chargers for their devices.