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Power United States

New Energy Efficiency Standards Take Effect This Week In the US (nrdc.org) 297

AmiMoJo writes: Eagerly awaited national energy efficiency standards for the little black boxes on the cords that connect many of our electronics--such as smartphones, computer laptops and electric toothbrushes--to wall outlets take effect this week. Known as external power supplies, or the less elegant term 'wall warts,' these power adapters may be small, but they consume a lot of energy. With 5 to 10 external power supplies in the average U.S. household, the new efficiency standards are projected to save consumers $300 million a year in electricity costs and reduce the carbon pollution that fuels dangerous climate change. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects that the new standards for external power supplies alone will cut nearly 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years, equivalent to the annual electricity use of 6.5 million homes.
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New Energy Efficiency Standards Take Effect This Week In the US

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  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:20PM (#51521437)

    I never got why we never bothered making additional DC sockets for our homes, Where we wouldn't need these power bricks for every "Low Power" device.

    I guess you could in theory have a power socket that allows USB too.

    • I guess you could in theory have a power socket that allows USB too.

      They do exist. [homedepot.com]

      • They are horribly inefficient, when will the government step in and fix this issue!? /sarcasm...

      • watch out which hole you plug that cable in!

        geeze, now I'm going to have to go home and see how hard it is to cram a micro USB in a power strip outlet.
        At least you should be sort of safe with a full-size USB connector. Unless you're five years old, really drunk or both.
    • ...because there is no standard voltage across all those devices. Heck, even the polarity (+ and -) is not universal.

      Pick up 5 different devices (you ADSL modem, settop box, the speakers on your desk, the charger for your razor, your cordless phone base station, your security cam, et cetera et cetera) and you will find they all have different voltages. I've seen 5 volt, 7.5 volt, 9 volt, 12 volt, even 4.5 or 18 sometimes (the amperages don't matter in this case). As long as that is not fixed, a DC bus is po

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      So until we have low voltage superconducting busbars that are so cheap that they can be in every building "Home DC" is not going to be efficient.

      Thanks to rapid graphene science progress that time may not be that far away.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So a savings of $300 million a year, divided among ~325 million people comes out to a little less than $1 per year. That's inconsequential. The pollution savings are significant, but too abstract for the common person to understand. Knowing the American people, I doubt that anyone cares; am I being too cynical?

    Either way, it's a worthy change, and I hope to see more like this.

    • Re:$1 per person (Score:4, Insightful)

      by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:31PM (#51521575) Homepage

      So a savings of $300 million a year, divided among ~325 million people comes out to a little less than $1 per year. That's inconsequential.

      But what about the costs of the initiative? How much more do the devices cost consumers? I suspect that there's really no savings and that the higher cost of the devices offset any potential savings.

    • I came up with the same $1. But they also said it's the equivalent of 6.5M homes - which is 5% of homes (~125M households in the us). I find it hard to believe that the average annual electric bill is $50 ($20/pp x 2.5ppl/household). Something in that summary is screwy.

      • I thought the same thing too, but then I realized they were talking about 30 years of use compared to a single year worth of electricity for 6.5M homes.
  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:23PM (#51521473)

    ...save consumers $300 million a year in electricity costs...

    So $1/year/person. In other words, no savings to speak of.

    • Shoot I thought they meant $300 million per consumer a year... you know because my power bill is outrageous.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So $1/year/person. In other words, no savings to speak of.

      You can always count on the amateur capitalist to neglect to fully prorate the costs of a thing before proclaiming its worth. Of course, if it were a proposed $1/year/person tax they'd be howling as if you'd stolen their first-born.

    • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:17PM (#51522075) Homepage
      There are energy efficiency standards on all kinds of devices, including:
      • Residential furnaces and boilers
      • Mobile home furnaces
      • Small furnaces
      • Residential water heaters
      • Direct heating equipment
      • Pool heaters
      • Distribution transformers, MV dry-type and liquid immersed
      • Electric motors (1200 hp)
      • Incandescent reflector lamps
      • Fluorescent lamps
      • Incandescent general service lamps
      • Fluorescent lamp ballasts
      • Residential dishwashers
      • Ranges and ovens (gas and electric) and microwave ovens
      • Residential clothes dryers
      • Room air conditioners
      • Packaged terminal air conditioners and heat pumps
      • Residential central air conditioners and heat pumps
      • Ceiling fan light kits (other than those with standards prescribed by EPACT 2005)
      • Residential dehumidifiers
      • Commercial clothes washers
      • Refrigerated bottle or canned beverage vending machines
      • Ice cream freezers; self-contained commercial refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerator-freezers without doors; and remote-condensing commercial refrigerators, freezers and refrigerator-freezers

      (source [energy.gov])(pdf). Sure, the wall wart is small potatoes. Lots of these items are small bits individually, and they all have to pass a cost/benefit test (the cost of the incremental improvement must be less than the financial savings). When you add up all the bits and bobs, the cumulative impact is significant. It's not like DOE started with wall warts. It focused initially on the biggest opportunities, and works its way down the list. It's only because /.ers have lots more wall warts than the common man that it's even newsworthy for us.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:41PM (#51522319) Homepage Journal

      Well, if this is $300 net, I'll take it. That's how economics works, doesn't it? You stop investing when the marginal return for a dollar spent is a dollar.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      That's just the saving on the supply of electricity. How much is preventing more than 1.5m tonnes of CO2/year being emitted, plus the other pollution, worth?

  • Free market (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:23PM (#51521475) Homepage Journal

    Why bother, when this problem could be resolved by the free market. I mean, who'd want to buy a power supply that constantly drains power even when it's off? This would only make sense if you assume the average consumer is an idiot.

    • Re:Free market (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slashping ( 2674483 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:33PM (#51521613)
      Manufacturers just pack whatever is the cheapest and most convenient for them. The consumer has no choice. The free market has failed to solve this problem.
    • by bgarcia ( 33222 )

      Why bother, when this problem could be resolved by the free market. I mean, who'd want to buy a power supply that constantly drains power even when it's off?

      Because people don't buy power supplies. They buy a phone. Or an answering matchine. Or a router. Or a Roku. Or a printer. They don't care about the wall wart that powers the thing.

    • “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” - H. L. Mencken
    • I hope you're trying to be funny. The free market has spoken. Cheap Chinese crap that burns so much power it may set your house on fire is the device of choice for the unwashed masses.

    • Why bother, when this problem could be resolved by the free market.

      The "free market" has utterly failed to solve this problem to date. QED your faith in the free market to solve all problems is misplaced.

      I mean, who'd want to buy a power supply that constantly drains power even when it's off?

      No one but you are implying that there is a choice. Many of these power supplies are designed to be as cheap as possible and/or badly designed. If I buy a TiVo or a router it's not as if I have a choice of what power supply it comes with. Companies that sell these things do not care AT ALL about your home or office electricity budget because they have no financial or r

    • The problem isn't the free market. The problem (if you can call it that) is that energy is so cheap, this waste makes no practical difference to the individual person. As Summary states, the savings is only $1/yr per person. That's a trivial enough amount that the free market decides it's a non-factor.

      To put the $300 million/yr figure in context, the U.S. uses about $470 billion worth of electricity in a year. So the savings from the new standard amounts to less than a 0.1% reduction in electricity c
    • Yea. Sounds like you failed econ 101. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] The free market only works when costs of fixing an issue are lower than costs of ignoring it. IE "Zero transaction costs" Also me buying a more efficient charger is a lot less cost effective than Samsung and the rest of the industry buying their efficient chargers IE "Non-increasing returns to scale" Also that I want to save money on my electric bill. We all know the stupid's "rolling coal" will not be doing that. I assume you may
  • 5 to 10 external power supplies in the average U.S. household

    That means somewhere in the U.S., there are about 20 wart-free houses that are offsetting my house. I recently hauled a cardboard box filled with them to the recycler; they were just the old ones from dead electronics. And I didn't even toss all of them; I kept another full box as replacements.

  • I just wish there were a similar national effort towards reducing the amount of electrical noise these things generate. They're regulated on paper, but not in practice, and the noise they create, once it is radiated by the power cords and general house wiring, is a major source of shortwave radio interference.

    • Stray radio emissions are wasted electricity, so increased efficiency should indirectly result in less emissions, right?

  • "$300 million a year in electricity costs and reduce the carbon pollution that fuels dangerous climate change. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects that the new standards for external power supplies alone will cut nearly 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years, equivalent to the annual electricity use of 6.5 million homes." OR
    1 day in the life of almost any industrial plant, that can profit from the carbon trading market.

    Not saying it should be a one OR the other tradeoff but why doe

  • So it'll save me about $1 in electric costs vs. whatever the increased price of the object is? Hard to know since they are typically bundled with a larger product.
    • The efficient wall warts are typically a lot smaller too, which means more convenience for the consumer as they can fit side by side in a power strip.
  • Unless this new standard has a provision to require manufacturers to recall and replace all the hundreds of millions of wart guzzlers already in the field, this won't be very newsworthy for at least a decade. Are citizens expected to run out and spend more money to replace the inefficient ones originally sold to them by manufacturers for decades? Why not make the manufacturers culpable for the consequences of their greed? They already knew how to make them more efficient, but didn't bother to do so to bo

  • I'm not sure what I'll do with my ~$1 windfall.
    • It's only $1/year after you spend $200 replacing every power supply in your house.

      The ROI on that is.... interesting.

  • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:55PM (#51521841)

    This is an example of the very common "Principal-Agent Problem" which exists in some form in many, many commercial products and services. Manufacturers and service providers make decisions in effect for consumer that benefit their bottom line, but pass on all sorts of costs to consumers as a result.

    In this case cheap energy-wasteful wall-warts that reduce the manufacturer cost but adds to everyone's electricity bill. Market competition does not address this issue since purveyors of electronics are not using "wall-wart power efficiency" in their sales campaigns, or even reveal how much power they waste if the consumer wants to find out (you have to buy it and see).

    Only regulation by an organization that acts in the interests of the consumer can address this.

    • A link to the Wikipedia page on this "Principal-Agent Problem" [wikipedia.org].

    • by fche ( 36607 )

      "Market competition does not address this issue since purveyors of electronics are not using "wall-wart power efficiency" in their sales campaigns"

      Don't confuse "does not address" with "cannot address". It does not address the issue -now- because the issue is trivial. People don't care about a few dozen watts being wasted as heat - especially in winter time.

  • We could demand by government fiat that wall warts be more efficient and reduce our carbon output or we could use nuclear power and eliminate it. I suggest we use nuclear power.

    If we use technology like a waste annihilating molten salt reactor we could eliminate the carbon emitted from electricity production, burn up the nuclear waste from old solid fuel reactors, and get some very valuable medical and industrial isotopes.

    The only reason we haven't seen reactors like this already is because the federal government has decided that they alone have the authority to manage nuclear materials, and that the people that license these nuclear facilities are so risk adverse that they'd rather see everyone in the world suffer and die from a carbon dioxide induced environmental collapse than have someone get on the news for having bumped their head while working on something "nukular".

    The federal government created this problem, I have little faith that they will fix it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Smidge204 ( 605297 )

      1) Nuclear power is stupidly expensive and environmentally dubious.

      2) Improving efficiency would reduce power requirements, which not only would reduce the size and quantity of power plants required (regardless of type) but also improves economics in other ways.

      3) Quite frankly, given the potential for abuse, environmental damage and public health hazards posed by nuclear power, government regulation is really the ONLY solution that would have sufficient clout and impartiality to be even remotely effective.

      • 1) Nuclear power is stupidly expensive

        Only because the government has deemed it so. If the government would actually do its job and issue licenses for nuclear power plants then it might not be so expensive. I seem to recall the federal government holding up licensing a nuclear power plant for thirty years, always coming back looking for more paperwork. At this point the paperwork likely weighs more than the power plant. It's not like we haven't built power plants before, there's a hundred of them in the USA right now. The government just n

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:22PM (#51522139)

    When the U.S. president says "millions of dollars" you just know he's not discussing foreign policy. He probably shouldn't be allowed to wield that word at all.

    Sorry, Mr President, "billions" is as low as you're allowed to go for dollars; you'll have to save that for talking about "ounces"—even if "this grand initiative will save America $0.3 billion annually" doesn't make it sound like we're paying off the last war any time soon.

    Come to think of it, if the president was confined to "trillions" (for the sake of uniformity) that wouldn't be a bad thing, either—even if the average America loses count when first hearing "this grand initiative will save America $0.0003 trillion annually." Obama in eight years has presided over something like $30 trillion in total state expenditure. For his substantive purposes, trillions are a perfectly good unit every day of the week, and all speechifying occasions.

  • "reduce the carbon pollution that fuels dangerous climate change"

    stop preaching. i reject your planet worshiping death cult.

  • by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @06:15PM (#51523037) Homepage

    I look forward to personally saving $300M next year in electricity. Oh, you meant totally? Well, you are only saving me a buck, less than a penny every three days.

    Like other climate solutions, I expect this to cause more climate harm than it is meant to mitigate.

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