From charging phones to mining Bitcoins: The energy use of everything

  • This World Environment Day, on June 5, we examine everyday energy use through appliances and digital tech.
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  • Some of the biggest energy suckers in our homes include heating and cooling systems, appliances, and lighting. We break down monthly costs.
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  • You could charge your phone for 1,000 years with the energy it takes to transact a single Bitcoin.
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  • Conserve energy by using a VR headset instead of a high-performance laptop, and optimize your gameplay and reduce lag with a gaming VPN.
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  • Global YouTube watching expends so much energy that turning it off for a week could power some small countries for a year.

From the moment we wake up and reach for our phones to the last show we binge-watch before going to bed, we’re constantly consuming energy. But have you ever stopped and considered the environmental impact of each of these actions?

Whether it’s working at a computer all day, driving a car, flying in a plane, or even mining a single Bitcoin, these activities all require some form of power. And these actions add up.

Energy consumption is one of the major contributors to climate change. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to generate electricity, power our vehicles, or heat our homes releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—which are widely considered to be contributing to climate change.

As inhabitants of this planet, we have a responsibility to protect it. As we approach World Environmental Day on June 5, it’s the right time to recognize our role in energy conservation and explore ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. 

To help achieve this, we take a closer look at the everyday appliances and activities that consume the most energy in our daily lives and find small changes that can make a big impact.

How much energy is the tech in your home using (and how much is it costing you)?

If you thought that simply turning off appliances was enough to save energy, think again. According to recent research, today’s connected homes are more power-hungry than ever, thanks to a plethora of devices that are always switched on at the wall or left running when not in use. 

From smart TVs to game consoles, media servers to external hard drives, there are more ways than ever for your home to be racking up your energy costs. But before you rush to turn everything off, remember that some devices need to be left on for security purposes (like CCTV or your VPN) or continuous service (such as your refrigerator and freezer). 

So, how can you strike a balance between convenience and energy conservation? It all starts with understanding just how much power your connected home is consuming, so you can make informed decisions about when and what to switch off.

In the infographic below, we break down the energy use of each item in a typical American household per month, along with the cost associated with it: 

General

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hour (USD)Length of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Portable heater (1500W)1.5 kWh $0.21 2 hours 90 kWh$12.6
Air conditioner (240V)1.8 kWh $0.25 4 hours 216 kWh$30.24
Pedestal fan0.03 kWh Less than $0.01 8 hours 7.2 kWh$1
Ceiling fan0.05 kWh Less than $0.016 hours 9 kWh$1.26
Incandescent light bulbs (60W)0.75 kWh $0.118 hours 18.3 kWh$2.5
Clock0.1 kWh$0.01Continuously7.2 kWh$1

 

Bathroom

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Electric water heater0.52 kWh $0.073 hours46.8 kWh$6.50
Electric toothbrush 0.003 kWhLess than $0.015 mins0.007 kWh$0.01
Hair dryer 1.5 kWh $0.21 20 mins13.5 kWh$1.89
Curling iron0.15 kWh $0.02 10 mins0.72 kWh$0.10

 

Bedroom

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Electric blanket: Double/Queen0.09 kWh$0.013 hours8.1 kWh$1.10
Night light (4W)0.12 kWh$0.0210 hours36 kWh$5.04
Smartphone charger 0.001 kWhLess than $0.01 Continuously0.15kWh$0.02
Radio alarm 0.008 kWhLess than $0.01 Continuously5.8 kWh$0.8

 

Kitchen

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Oven2.3 kWh $0.3230 minutes34.5 kWh$4.83
Stovetop1.5 kWh$0.2130 minutes22.5 kWh$3.15
Microwave1.44 kWh (0.12 kWh per 5 mins)$0.12 ($0.02 per 5 min)15 minutes10.8 kWh$1.5
Kettle0.11 kWh$0.0210 minutes0.5 kWh$0.07
Coffee maker/warmer on0.4 kWh per hour (0.12 kWh per brew)$0.05 ($0.02 per brew)1 hour9.6 kWh$1.34
Dishwasher (normal cycle not including hot water)1.1 kWh $0.15 2 hour-load65.1 kWh$9.11
Toaster oven0.75 kWh$0.10 5 minutes1.87 kWh$0.26
Refrigerator + freezer (17 cu. ft.)0.04 kWhLess than $0.1Continuous35 kWh$4.9
Air fryer (1500W) 1.5 kWh$0.2120 minutes14.9 kWh$2.09

 

Laundry room

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Clothes dryer 3 kWh $0.5 Twice a week 25.5 kWh$3.57
Conventional washing machine2.3 kWh$0.32Twice a week19.5 kWh$2.73
Vacuum cleaner 0.75 kWh$0.102 hours per week4.8 kWh$0.67
Robot vacuum cleaner0.007 kWh Less than $0.01 45 minutes0.15 kWh$0.02
Iron 1.08 kWh$0.1540 minutes per week2.8 kWh$0.4

 

Living room

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
LED TV (4k UHD)40”-50”: 0.071 kWh Less than $0.01 3 hours(Average): 2.8 kWh$0.40
Cable box (plugged in)0.01 kWh Less than $0.013 hours 0.9kWh$0.14
Streaming video player (Roku)0.002 kWhLess than $0.01 3 hours0.18 kWh$0.02
Gaming console0.07 kWhLess than $0.01 2 hours4.2 kWh$0.58
Speakers (25 Watts x 2)0.05 kWh Less than $0.01 3 hours4.5 kWh$0.63
Stereo0.05 kWh Less than $0.01 2 hours3 kWh$0.42
Radio/CD player0.02 kWh Less than $0.01 1 hour 30 minutes0.9 kWh$0.12
Free-standing halogen luminaire0.02 kWhLess than $0.01 6 hours3.6 kWh$0.54

 

Home office

ApplianceEstimated Power Consumption Range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Wi-Fi router0.01 kWhLess than $0.01Continuously 7.2 kWh$1
Desktop computerOn: 0.06 kWh$0.012 hours3.6 kWh$0.54
Laptop0.05 kWh Less than $0.01 2 hours3 kWh$0.42
Monitor (17” LCD)0.04 kWh Less than $0.01 2 hours2.4 kWh$0.33
Printer0.001 kWh Less than $0.0110 minutes per week0.01 kWh$0.01


Outside/garage

ApplianceEstimate power consumption range/hourEstimated energy cost/hourLength of use per dayEstimated Power Consumption Range/monthEstimated energy cost/month (USD)
Pool sweep pump 0.56 kWh $0.08 6 hours101 kWh$14.11
Hot tub (1500W)1.5 kWh $0.21 15 minutes20 kWh$2.83
Electric car (To charge)0.49 kWh $0.067.5 hours110 kWh$15.4
e-Bike (500Wh) (To charge)0.37 kWh$0.053.5 hours39 kWh$5.4

*The energy used by household tech, based on average operation conditions, is calculated on the basis of their capacity (expressed in watts) per hour and then per month. Estimated costs are based on 0.14 USD per kWh, which is the U.S. national average. Frequency and individual use may vary.

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High-energy-consuming appliances

Most of us want to do our part for the environment and lower our electricity bills. One of the easiest places to start is in the home. It’s helpful to know which devices are consuming the most electricity and costing you the most money. Unsurprisingly, our data shows that some of the most power-hungry appliances are air conditioners and electric water heaters, which consume 216 kWh (30 USD) and 47 kWh (7 USD) per month, respectively. Other significant energy-suckers are pool sweep pumps (101 kWh; 14 USD) and electric cars, which consume 110 kWh (15 USD) per charge. Clothes dryers and dishwashers also rack up a pretty penny, guzzling 65 kWh (9 USD) and 26 kWh (4 USD) worth of energy per month. 

Sweat the small stuff

Even seemingly small appliances can add up over time. For instance, leaving a night light on every night over an entire month will consume 36 kWh (5 USD) of electricity. Similarly, heating your home with a portable heater and using a hair dryer for just 20 minutes a day for a month will consume 90 kWh (13 USD) and 14 kWh (2 USD), respectively.

Also, consider that devices that consume electricity even when not in use. For instance, turning off unused devices and unplugging chargers when not being used can help reduce unnecessary energy consumption.

Investing in energy efficiency

To reduce energy consumption in your home, it’s important to think holistically about your energy use. Focusing on small things like boiling water on a stovetop vs. in the microwave is probably a waste of time. Instead, look at the big energy suckers in your home, like air conditioners, water heaters, and washing machines. These machines have become far more efficient over the years, so upgrading appliances to the latest models can sometimes be a wise choice. Changing your behavior can also make a significant difference. For example, washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm can save you 150 USD a year in the average home.

Lighting solutions

Lighting is another great way to save electricity, with LED bulbs being the most energy-efficient option. Traditional incandescent bulbs are more heaters than light sources, and a single 60-watt bulb can use 220 kWh per year. A compact fluorescent can put out the same light for just 7 USD per year, and a newer LED bulb can do it for 4.40 USD. If you replace 10 incandescent bulbs around your house with 10 LED bulbs, you could save more than 210 USD a year. LED bulbs never burn out, and because they put out very little heat, you’ll save on your air conditioning.

Weighing your needs

Reducing energy consumption is a balancing act between convenience and practicality. For example, in areas with hot and humid climates, air conditioners may be a necessity, and households may need to find ways to manage energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. Similarly, electric cars are widely seen as a more sustainable transportation option, despite consuming more electricity than traditional cars, due to their other environmental benefits. Additionally, unplugging a router every time it’s not in use may be impractical for some households. 

There may also be other solutions such as purchasing energy-efficient devices or using power strips with timers that can help reduce energy consumption. You could also consider investing in renewable energy sources such as solar panels for your household to reduce its dependence on traditional electricity sources.

It takes the energy of 1,000 years of charging your phone to transact a single Bitcoin

Sure, you know that leaving your fridge door open is a no-no and that running your air conditioner 24/7 is a surefire way to contribute toward melting the polar ice caps. But what about more everyday things, like binge-watching your favorite shows or playing video games on a high-performing laptop? 

And how do more extreme examples compare, like charging your phone for a year versus mining a single bitcoin, or driving 120 miles in a car every day versus flying once a year? Let’s find out…

Is your work costing you more than you think? 

If you’re stuck at a desk for eight hours a day, you might want to consider how your computer is impacting your energy usage. According to our calculations, using a desktop computer for eight hours a day consumes a whopping 600 kWh per year, which could ultimately be costing your company roughly 84 USD in energy use per employee. 

In contrast, using a laptop for the same amount of time consumes only 225 kWh per year, costing just 32 USD in energy. 

The energy costs of being entertained

Spending two hours a day on TikTok on your phone for a year only uses 5.17 kWh, which is less than what it costs to buy a cup of coffee these days. In comparison, binge-watching your favorite show for the same amount of time each day on a streaming platform like Netflix can consume up to 36.5 kWh per year, which adds up pretty fast. So, if you want to save some energy (and some cash), perhaps consider swapping your TV time for some social media scrolling.

In terms of music streaming, listening to your favorite playlist on Apple Music for an hour only uses 0.016 kWh, which isn’t much. Spending two hours a day streaming music for a year only uses approximately 14 kWh, which is around 1.96 USD worth of energy annually. 

Power up: Energy use while gaming

Gaming can be an energy-intensive hobby, but have you ever wondered which setup is more efficient: a high-performance gaming laptop or a VR headset? 

A gaming laptop can suck up between 300-500 watts of power, which means it consumes up to 1,400 kWh annually, costing you a whopping 196 USD a year in energy bills. In contrast, strapping on a VR headset for an hour of gaming (like the PlayStation VR headset) only uses 665 kWh per year which costs 93 USD annually, which is less than half the cost. 

If you’re looking to game with a cleaner conscience (and a fatter wallet), it might be time to ditch the high-performing laptop and go for a more energy-efficient route instead, without sacrificing your gameplay. By pairing your energy-efficient gaming setup with a gaming VPN, you can also optimize your gaming experience while keeping your connection secure and reducing lag.

From phones to Bitcoins

It’s no secret that cryptocurrency mining requires a lot of energy. In fact, even the most efficient Bitcoin mining operation uses roughly 155,000 kWh to mine a single Bitcoin (which would cost you roughly 21,700 USD in energy bills). The New York Times equated the power consumed for Bitcoin mining annually to the total electricity used by Finland in one year. 

But even Bitcoin transactions have an outsized energy cost. Sending or receiving a single Bitcoin requires a whopping 1,833 kWh (257 USD) of energy. It’s worth noting that a Bitcoin is valued at 27,400 USD at the time of writing, which explains why people would spend that amount of energy to trade.

For comparison, charging your phone for a whole year only uses 1.83 kWh, which is equivalent to 0.25 USD. To put this in perspective, it would take you over 1,000 years of charging your phone to meet the energy equivalent of transacting a single Bitcoin. This equates to roughly a million times more in carbon emissions than a single credit card transaction.  

So, if you trade crypto, it’s going to be the largest contributor to your carbon footprint no matter what you do. Hopefully, in the future, more environmentally friendly mining methods will be developed and achieve popularity quickly, replacing these practices entirely.

Flights vs. driving 

Driving a car, an electric car, or flying? If you’re eco-conscious, you might be curious about which is more energy-efficient. Let’s look at the numbers.

According to the EPA, every gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. Driving a conventional car 120 miles would consume approximately 158kWh. By comparison, an electric car using 2.9 miles per kWh brings the energy consumption to 41.3 kWh. 

Newer electric car models, like the Tesla 3, boast a 4 kWh usage rate, allowing drivers to utilize 30 kWh worth of power per 120 miles, ultimately reducing energy use further.

On the flip side, there are also concerns about the high amounts of energy required to manufacture EV batteries. But overall, agencies like the EPA still consider electric vehicles to be more environmentally friendly than gasoline cars.

So, how does flying compare? 

The efficiency of a flight depends on a lot of factors, including the age and weight of the plane, the number of passengers onboard, and the length of the flight. Recent statistics from U.S. airlines put average fuel consumption at 58 miles per gallon per passenger—which is more efficient than the average car efficiency of 25.7 miles per gallon. 

But if you have multiple people traveling together in a car, you’re expending less gas per person though, which could mean lower energy consumption per passenger than flying in a plane.

Can individuals make a difference?

You’re probably wondering how much of a difference small changes in your individual energy consumption can really make to the planet. The fact is, actions on a corporate level or changes in government policies have a much greater impact than what individuals can achieve.

That said, our small habits in daily routines do add up. For example, let’s look at something as simple as sending an email. 

While one email with an attachment uses a minuscule amount of electricity (0.00000225 kWh), if you consider that around 319.6 billion emails are sent each day, the amount of energy being used adds up to a whopping 215,730 kWh per day—that’s enough to power 20 average American homes for a year. 

Watching a bit of YouTube seems harmless enough, but on a global level, the amount of energy consumed by YouTube viewership in one week can power some small countries (like Azerbaijan and Ecuador) for a year. Here is a look at various territories and how much of their annual energy consumption is equivalent to one week of YouTube use around the world.  

Watching YouTube videos in 4K uses 25% more energy than, say, streaming Netflix in UHD. With over one billion hours of YouTube videos watched daily, that’s a lot of energy consumption. If no one watched YouTube for a week, it could generate a maximum energy output that would provide more than 36% worth of non-renewable electricity for Qatar over a year or 0.8% worth of electricity for the U.S.

What steps will you be taking in your everyday life to save energy? Let us know in the comments below. 

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