Although cell phone chargers are necessary to keep your phone charged and ready to go at all times, and they are relatively small, they actually consume a small amount of electricity if left plugged into the outlet after charging.
What’s more, the older the phone, the more electricity it unnecessarily absorbs. At the same time, the newer power adapters hitting the market are designed in such a way that this is no longer a problem.
Although tests with an electricity meter show that basic cell phone chargers do not consume huge amounts of power, and manufacturers are getting better at improving energy use, when you add up all the cell phone chargers in the world, the energy total used still amounts to significant numbers.
If you’re concerned that your old charger may be contributing to the planet’s demise, there’s a simple way to test it. Just plug it in and feel if it gets warm to the touch after a few minutes. This generally indicates that it is a linear power supply, which tends to be larger, bulkier, and less capable of converting alternating current from the mains to direct current that can be used by household appliances.
Upgraded chargers are typically “switched mode” or “switched” power supplies, meaning they contain small computer chips that handle the AC-to-DC conversion, although larger adapters of this type found in computers they still use electricity when the power is off. A desktop computer tends to use around 2 watts when off, which is comparable to what a video game console can use. Other smaller adapters typically use between 1 watt and a third of a watt of power.
Again, it is not the individual power that makes the difference, but the impact that all the appliances around the world have in combination. Certain devices, such as DVD players that always go on standby, are the worst offenders because they never actually turn off completely. Some printers do not have an “off” button and are known to draw a lot of additional power from the system.
Many people use a power strip to save energy when appliances are not in use. All you have to do is connect your appliances to the power strip and then turn off the power strip when not in use. Of course, the easiest way to save energy when using cell phone chargers is to unplug them when you are 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 during charging is more prominent than the amount of power use that occurs if they are left plugged into the wall. As a result, the EPA is taking notice and paying attention to the issue of cell phone chargers and energy preservation. Some chargers transfer less than half of the power they consume to the actual cell phone. The rest is heat.
There is now the Energy Star Criteria for power adapters and manufacturers are paying attention to the new standards. Motorola is in the process of redesigning its cell phone chargers to meet the new suggestions. Samsung already jumped the gun by introducing Energy Star Chargers last year.
In the end, it all adds up: If everyone with a cell phone in the US used Energy Start-qualified chargers, up to 760,000 homes could be powered for one year. Greenhouse gas emissions would also be significantly reduced.
The topic of cell phone chargers and the environment is relatively new, but with the advent of more efficient technology and the general public becoming increasingly aware of climate change, the future looks bright.