Although cell phone chargers are necessary for keeping your phone juiced and ready-to-go at all times, and are relatively small, they actually consume a small amount of electricity if left plugged into the wall socket after charging.
What’s more, the older the phone the more electricity it sucks away unnecessarily. At the same time, newer power adaptors coming on the market are designed in such a way that this is not so much of a problem anymore.
Although tests using a electricity meter show that basic cell phone chargers don’t consume enormous amounts of energy, and manufacturers are getting better at improving energy usage, when you add up all the cell phone chargers in the world the total energy used still amounts to significant numbers.
If you’re concerned that your older charger may be contributing to the demise of the planet, there’s a simple way to test it. Just plug it in and feel if it becomes warm to the touch after a few minutes. This usually indicates that it is a linear power supply, which tends to be larger, bulky, and less capable of turning alternating current from the power grid into direct current that can be utilized by household appliances.
Up-to-date chargers are usually “switched-mode” or “switching” power supplies, which means they contain tiny computer chips that manage the conversion from AC to DC, although bigger adapters of this kind that are found in computers still use electricity when the power is switched off. A desktop tends to use around 2 watts when it’s switched off, which is comparable to what a video game console may use. Other smaller adaptors typically use about 1 watt to a third of a watt of power.
Again, it’s not the individual wattage that makes a difference, but the impact all the appliances around the world have in combination. Certain appliances, such as DVD players that always remain in standby mode, are the worst offenders because they never really turn completely off. Some printers don’t have an “off” button, and are known to sap a lot of extra electricity from the system.
Many people use a power strip for conserving power when appliances are not in use. All you have to do is plug your appliances into the power strip and then turn off the power strip when they are not in use. Of course, the easiest way to save energy when using cell phone chargers is to unplug them when you’re not charging the phone. This is such a simple step, especially if you own an old cell phone, and it can make a difference in the long run.
With some chargers the problem of inefficiency while charging is more prominent than how much energy usage occurs if they are left plugged into the wall. As a result, the EPA is taking note and paying attention to the issue of cell phone chargers and energy preservation. Some chargers transfer less than half the energy they consume to the actual cell phone. The rest is heat.
Now Energy Star Criteria exists for power adaptors, and manufacturers are taking heed of the new standards. Motorola is in the process of redesigning its cell phone chargers to comply with the new suggestions. Samsung already jumped the gun by introducing Energy Star Chargers last year.
It all adds up in the end: if everyone with a cell phone in the U.S. used Energy Start-qualified chargers, up to 760,000 homes could be powered for a year. Greenhouse gas emissions would also be cut significantly.
The issue of cell phone chargers and the environment is relatively new, but with the advent of more efficient technology and the general public becoming more aware of climate change, the future seems bright.