Skip to main content

Study finds that inefficient connected devices suck up $80 billion of electricity annually

study finds inefficient connected devices suck 80 billion dollars electricity annually smart home
According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, the world’s 14 billion internet-connected devices –specifically, things like modems, printers, game consoles, and cable boxes– collectively waste around $80 billion in electricity annually. In 2013, these devices consumed roughly 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity — 400 of which can be directly attributed to inefficient standby technology. To put things in perspective, that’s roughly the equivalent to the combined annual energy consumption of the United Kindom and Norway.

In its report, the IEA found that the root of the problem basically boils down to inefficient “network standby” technology — the protocols that allow a device to maintain a network connection while they sit idle and wait to perform their primary function. Most network-enabled devices draw just as much power in this mode as when they’re fully active, the report notes.

Furthermore, the agency expects the problem to worsen by 2020 and balloon to an estimated $120 billion in wasted electricity as more devices –refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, and thermostats– all become networked.

This news should be of particular concern to consumers who have embraced the burgeoning smart home trend. Many of the connected home devices that have hit the market in the past few years —networked lights, connected appliances, and the like– bill themselves as being eco-friendly because they can do nifty things like automatically turn off or go into “power saving mode” when you’re away from home. Features like this might very well save some amount of energy, but the amount the juice it takes to keep devices connected to a network is something that’s rarely discussed.

The solution, however, isn’t to do away with connected devices. Instead, the IEA suggests that equipping all such devices with energy efficient components, and outfitting them with better software that enables devices to drop to low power modes when not in use, could potentially cut energy consumption by 65 percent. Using today’s best technology and applying better efficiency measures over the coming years could save the world up to 600 TWh. That’s equivalent to closing 200 standard 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants, which would cut emissions by 600 million metric tons of CO2, the report says.

To get all the details on the agency’s research, check out the full report here.

Editors' Recommendations

Drew Prindle
Senior Editor, Features
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
Hook this device up to your water heater and watch your utility bill shrink
can device water heaters nest thermostats aquanta heater controller

Behind space heating, water heating consumes the most energy in our homes, according to Yet as thermostats get smarter, water heaters remain relatively dumb, beyond some tankless innovations.

A Kickstarter campaign from Sunnovations wants to get in on the smart home game and lower your utility bill all at once. Aquanta is a retrofittable water heater controller that learns homeowners water usage patterns via sensors that measure energy going into the tank, as well as the energy it takes to heat the shower, run the dishwasher, and all the other household tasks requiring hot water. Once your Aquanta figures out you bathe every morning at 7:00, it sync its water-heating to that schedule.

Read more
D-Link’s new smart plug will automatically turn off connected devices if they overheat
d links new smart plug will automatically turn connected devices overheat screen shot 2014 05 06 at 11 04 42 am

Smart plugs are the backbone of the DIY connected home. By acting as a network-connected middleman between your wall outlets and the powered gizmos in your house, they allow you to remotely control and automate "dumb" appliances. Over the past couple years, dozens of manufacturers have developed their own versions, and now D-Link will soon join the fray.

Earlier today, the company announced the Wi-Fi Smart Plug (DSP-W215): the first product in D-Link's new line of connected home solutions slated to be released over the course of the next couple years. Similar to other connected plugs that are currently on the market, D-Link's plug allows users to monitor and control their home's electronic devices from anywhere in the world using an accompanying mobile app.

Read more
Parce One learning plugs are like a Nest for your outlets
parce one learning plugs like nest outlets its a breeze to use

There's definitely no shortage of smart plugs on on the market right now, but they're not all created equally. Most are pretty bare bones, and merely allow you to remotely switch things on or off with a smartphone, but lately we've been seeing more more plugs that can also track energy consumption.
Parce, a startup based in Germany, is the latest company to come forward with such a plug. Its flagship product, the Parce One, is a lot like the energy tracking Insight Switch from Belkin, but with a few distinct differences. It does all the same tricks - tracks your electricity usage of any fixture it's plugged into, and can turn stuff on/off remotely via a smartphone app - but it also has the ability to learn your habits, much like how Nest's infamous thermostat learns what temperature you like.
Once you've finished the dead-simple setup process and synced the One to your home Wi-Fi network, you have the option of setting up custom automations, or simply leaving it be and letting the plug learn your habits. If you choose not to tweak it at all, the plug will gather information on when you're using certain appliances, and over time will be able to automatically turn them off when you're not using them. In essence, it takes the hassle out of monitoring your home's energy usage.
By the look of the company's video on IndieGoGo, it appears they've also built a rather robust webapp/dashboard you can use to monitor your energy consumption. Assuming what they're showing in the video is a working program and not just a mockup, the application will allow you to fine-tune your settings, adjust on/off times for each of your connected devices individually, see graphs of your electricity usage over time, and even pinpoint areas where you can cut your consumption and reduce your energy bill.
And to top it all off, Parce is designed to accommodate a wide range of different plug types, so it doesn't matter what part of the world you're in  - chances are good they've got a model that works for your house.
The company is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to raise the necessary funds for their first production run

Read more