11   Gadgets

One of the greatest dangers to society is the phone charger. The BBC News
has been warning us of this since 2005:

“The nuclear power stations will all be switched off in a few
years. How can we keep Britain’s lights on? ... unplug your
mobile-phone charger when it’s not in use

Sadly, a year later, Britain hadn’t got the message, and the BBC was forced
to report:

Britain tops energy waste league.”

And how did this come about? The BBC rams the message home:

“65% of UK consumers leave chargers on.”

From the way reporters talk about these planet-destroying black ob-
jects, it’s clear that they are roughly as evil as Darth Vader. But how evil,

In this chapter we’ll find out the truth about chargers. We’ll also in-
vestigate their cousins in the gadget parade: computers, phones, and TVs.
Digital set-top boxes. Cable modems. In this chapter we’ll estimate the
power used in running them and charging them, but not in manufacturing
the toys in the first place – we’ll address that in the later chapter on “stuff.”

The truth about chargers

Modern phone chargers, when left plugged in with no phone attached,
use about half a watt. In our preferred units, this is a power consump-
tion of about 0.01 kWh per day. For anyone whose consumption stack is
over 100 kWh per day, the BBC’s advice, always unplug the phone charger,
could potentially reduce their energy consumption by one hundredth of
one percent (if only they would do it).

Every little helps!

I don’t think so. Obsessively switching off the phone-charger is like bailing
the Titanic with a teaspoon. Do switch it off, but please be aware how tiny
a gesture it is. Let me put it this way:

All the energy saved in switching off your charger for one day
is used up in one second of car-driving.

The energy saved in switching off the charger for one year is
equal to the energy in a single hot bath.

Figure 11.1. Planet destroyers. Spot the difference.
Figure 11.2. These five chargers – three for mobile phones, one for a pocket PC, and one for a laptop – registered less than one watt on my power meter.