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How Much Do We Spend on Electricity to Stay Connected?

They are the devices that we think we can’t live without.  They are our computers, our smartphones, our televisions, and other devices that keep us connected with the world.  And the truth is, our lives would be very different if we did not have them, so few people are likely to willingly give any of them up.  However, have you ever wondered what it costs to stay connected—not the price of the device, but to keep them working?  Although there are incredibly wildly different rates charged for electricity in North America, a general expectation is that homeowners will pay a minimum of $.12 per kilowatt/hour (kWh) to $.50 per kWh.  That is a wildly varying rate, but as the saying goes—location, location, location.

Costs of Different Devices

  • Computer:  There are different sizes of computers, and there are different amounts of time that computers are used—and some owners shut them off when not in use, and some keep them powered up but in sleep mode.  All of these different ways of treating computers can make the cost of running a computer vary.  However, there are some estimates and averages for computer usage.

​It is estimated that an average computer is “active” for 2,954 hours a year.  It is in sleep mode for 350 hours, then it must be turned off for 5,456 hours each year. Using these numbers, we can estimate that the average computer uses 75 watts an hour in active mode, four watts in sleep, and two watts when turned off.  That means a desktop computer meeting these averages will use 236 kWh each year.  With our $.12 to $.50 cent range in kWh, it would cost $28.32 to operate a desktop computer a year in places where electricity is cheap, and $118 where it is more expensive.  If people don’t turn their desktop off, it will use about 650 kWh, and will cost $78 to $325 per year.

  • Smartphone:  If you drained your battery every day and recharged it completely, a smartphone would use 2kWh a year.  That means it would could cost from $.24 a year to $1 to keep a phone charged.  If you fully charged your smartphone once a day, every day for a year, you couldn’t buy a Coke in most vending machines once for the same amount of money.
  • Laptop:  Forbes states that a laptop would use 72 kWh, which ranges from $8.64 a year to $36 a year to keep it charged. 
  • Tablet:  Forbes also writes that an iPad could cost from $1.36 a year to about $5.67.  The difference in the amount of electricity for smartphones, tablets and laptops is the larger the screen, the more electricity is used for charging. 
  • Television:  Back in the good old days, most televisions were of similar size, so estimating the cost of a television was fairly similar, but now people can by a 30 inch screen HDTV or an 80 inch screen plasma screen all at the same store and no one would think twice.  For the sake of comparison, the American Council for Energy –Efficiency Economy uses a 40 inch (or greater) plasma television as a starting place, and estimates this television would use 441 kWh per year.  The cost would range from $53 to $220 a year.

A 40 inch (or larger) LCD television would use 77 kWh per year, or cost $9.25 to $38.50 per year.

A CRT television that is 40 inches or larger would use 73 kWh, so it would cost slightly less than the LCD.

DVR and other add-ons for television:  DVR:  363 kWh per year, or ranging from $43.56 to $181.50 per year; digital cable 239 kWh ranging from $28.68 to $169.50 per year; satellite cable 124 kWh per year or $14.88 to $62 per year; video game console 16 kWh per year, or $1.92 to $8 per year, or a DVD player 13 kWh, or $1.56 to $6.50 per year.

The electricity used by these electronic devices, along with vacuums and similar items are estimated to use from 10% to 15% of all electricity in homes.  It is also important to remember that in today’s world, there are not many homes that have one television, or even two.  And where there are three or more televisions, there are almost certainly three or more DVR’s, or other parts of connectivity, and certainly there is more than one smartphone as most people 10 years old and older have their own devices, and often their own tablets or laptops, and perhaps both. 

In homes, devices that make heat or remove heat use the most electricity.  That means that HVAC units, water heaters, and refrigerators tend to be the largest users of electricity in a home.  Smaller devices such as DVR’s also use a lot of electricity, especially since owners often leave them; as well as charging phones, and other devices that continually use electricity.