Today, California became the first state in the Union to pass minimum efficiency standards for battery charger efficiency. That might not sound like a big deal, but the numbers cited by the California Energy Commission suggest otherwise. A great many battery chargers are operating at around 40% efficiency (losing 60% of energy consumed as heat), while the most inefficient are operating at as low as 3%. Granted, existing technology puts limits on maximum efficiency possible, and the constraints of materials and costs keep that number down even more, but the Commission has implemented other ideas to help stop battery chargers from creating a huge, unnecessary drain on the state’s energy supply, with estimates saying that 13% of statewide energy consumption goes into powering those battery chargers.
The new standards include provisions that require chargers to stop functioning after bringing the plugged-in unit to 100% charge. Many chargers now keep drawing power from outlets even when the device is fully charged, or if there’s no device plugged into the charger at all. The decrease in energy consumption as a result of the standards is estimated to save California residents $300 million over the lifetime of their electronics products. The energy saved would be equivalent to the amount needed to run a medium-sized city for a year. The standards are estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 1.8 million tons annually.
The move should make financial sense for California residents – for every one cent increase in the cost of electronics products as a result of the new standards, residents can expect a seven cent drop in their energy bills. The rest of the nation will likely be seeing the same standards at some point in the future – over the last few decades, efficiency standards set by California have typically set the trend for national policy. The standards will go into effect on February 1st, 2013 for consumer electronics, January 1st, 2014 for industrial chargers, and January 1st, 2017 for commercial equipment chargers.
Via the Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog and the LA Times