Save energy: Put your gaming consoles to 'sleep'

January 26, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- According to a report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), gaming consoles, which populate nearly 40 percent of U.S. households, consume about $1.6 billion worth of energy annually -- an amount equal to the annual energy consumption of San Diego.

And, believe it or not, consoles like the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, if left on continuously, use twice as much energy annually as a household’s largest appliance -- the refrigerator -- something that Office of the Physical Plant Energy Engineer Mike Prinkey says is a growing problem.

“When electricity is not billed independently, it is not as important to conserve,” Prinkey said, referring to on-campus housing.

In the last 20 years the items used in residence halls on campus have increased their power requirements, which has increased the electric bill and has placed a burden on the residence hall buildings that were not designed to support the electricity load, causing nuisance trips of breakers, Prinkey said.

Three consoles were analyzed in the NRDC report: Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and Sony PlayStation 3. When turned off after use, the Wii, XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 consume 30, 110, and 120 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year respectively. When left on continuously, the consoles consume 100, 1,030, and 1,340 kWh of energy respectively.

Translated into dollars, the Wii uses $3 with on/off use and $10 when left on continuously. The Xbox 360 uses $11 with on/off use and $103 when left on. Sony’s PlayStation 3 uses $12 with on/off use and $134 when left on.

In comparison, a full sized refrigerator like the Kenmore Elite 76252, which is left on continuously, uses between 420 and 510 kWh ($42 and $51) a year in electricity, according to the top six refrigerator specifications at All amounts were based on the national average $.10 per kWh.

The NRDC report encourages gaming console owners to set their systems to an automatic “sleep” function -- something that is not a default function on either the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3.

According to the report, using these energy conserving, power-management features could save about 11 billion kWh of electricity a year, cut the nation’s electricity costs by more than $1 billion a year, and avoid more than 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

According to Prinkey, the “most aggressive” way to save power with a gaming console is to place its plug into a power strip  -- like most people do with computers -- and when turning off the system, turn off the strip as well, which eliminates any electricity from reaching the unit. A "Smart Strip" can achieve the same results by automatically switching off accessories when a TV is turned off. These are available at most retailers including the Penn State Computer Store.    

“[Conserving electricity] is just as important as conserving other natural resources,” said Prinkey.

However, not everyone sees the direct impact of using electrical devices, so people are less inclined to try and conserve their energy use. Creating one unit of electricity requires three units of a natural resource fuel, like coal, to create it. In other words, using 1 kWh of electricity requires 3 kWh to produce it, Prinkey said.

“The unit of energy saved is the cleanest unit of energy,” he said.

Want to use your console’s power-saving function?

Here’s how to do it:
PlayStation 3
-Go to the “Main Menu”, scroll left to “System Settings” tab, and down to “Power Save Setting”
-Select “System Auto-Off” option, choose options (1hr, 2hr, 3hr, 5hr) *1hr uses maximum energy saving
-Choose “OK” on “Special Conditions” prompt, which sends the system to sleep even when a disk is in the console.
-Set Controller to Auto-Off too.

Xbox 360
-Go to the “Main Menu,” scroll right to “System” tab, press “A” button to select “Console Settings”
-Scroll down to “Shutdown,” press “A” button.
-Select “Auto-Off,” select “Enable”

For more information on how to conserve energy, visit

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Last Updated March 19, 2009