Row.co.uk Blog

Over the last few years, there has been a huge rise in the ownership of tablets and smartphones. This has helped drive a surge in a demand for electricity, and it’s costing the equivalent of £33 per year for each household in the UK, new research has shown.

 

Data analysis commissioned by the team here at Row.co.uk has revealed that the demand for power from chargers has doubled since 2000. This rise coincides with the growth of mobile phones, and more recently, smartphones and tablets.

 

To find this figure we analysed data released by the Department of Energy, divided by the 26.7 million households in the UK.

 

By 2005 82%[1] of UK adults owned a mobile phone.  Today, 9 out of 10 adults in the UK own a mobile and two thirds of them have more power-hungry smartphones, according to Ofcom, the communications regulator.[2]

 

The launch of the iPad in 2010 led to an appetite for tablets and further increased the demand for power to charge devices.  In 2011, just 2% of households owned a tablet. It’s now 54% of homes[3] – that’s nearly 15 million tablets.

 

Our analysis of figures from the Department of Energy[4] shows that UK households now use the same amount of power to charge up these gadgets at home as the power needed for all laptop and desktop computers, and printers. 

 

Put another way, consumption by all the chargers across the UK is equivalent to the total electricity consumption for a year for the cities of Birmingham and Bradford combined.[5]

 

The total bill of £903 million makes charging gadgets one of the biggest areas of electricity consumption for household appliances.  Britain only spends more on running its TVs, fridges and washing machines.

 

Our team of researchers calculated that the average annual cost per charger is just over £4 and with 200 million chargers across the UK, that’s 8 per household, this cost is only going to increase.

 

While this energy consumption is being offset by reduced consumption in other areas, such as more energy efficient home appliances, it’s leading to a multi-million-pound electricity bill for the consumer and an area of new demand for power from the National Grid.

 

Some of that power may be consumed by leaving mobile phones and tablets plugged in when they are fully charged. Tests carried out by researchers from the Berkley Lab at the University of California found that a fully charged phone continued to draw 66% of the power it consumed while charging. [6]

 

We all plug our gadgets in on a daily basis with little thought of the cost. Our analysis reveals for the first time how much Britain is paying for keeping our phones and tablets powered up.  It also shows how lifestyle changes affect the way we consume electricity and the amount we need to power our lives.

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