The number of devices we plug in on a given day continues to grow, and even energy efficient devices that are less power hungry can require a large amount of energy and resources to charge. When we consider the number of households across the globe plugging in to recharge, the eye-opening sum deserves pause. When it comes to saving energy, we all have a part to play, and it starts with understanding the most energy efficient ways to charge our devices. What’s the real difference between charging one device by drawing power from another electronic device versus plugging our chargers directly into the wall?
The answer is a little more complicated than choosing A or B, this or that. The difference in energy use between plugging your phone or music player into your computer to charge vs. using a charger plugged directly into the wall is less than you may think. Both charging methods draw electricity from the wall outlet, with one diverted through a cord attached to your computer. In both charging scenarios even the best charge rests around 80% efficiency. Consider that portable devices—tablets, phones, laptops—operate on direct current (DC) electricity stored in their internal batteries. The power coming from the outlet, however, is an alternating current (AC) of electricity which transmits over long distances more easily than DC. Once the AC current hits the charger’s adaptor, it is converted to the usable DC form of energy, wasting some energy during that conversion. The amount of wasted energy rests with quality of your adapter and its ability to convert energy efficiently.
With this in mind, the more pressing question for consumers and tech designers alike is how do we make battery charging and energy consumption more efficient overall? The good news is these adaptors continue to improve in performance, and the industry standards are evolving at exponential rates. The better news is that you, the consumer, can impact energy use by making small changes to the way you both use and charge your phone, preserving its battery life and reducing waste during charging.
“Wireless technology is now the norm,” says a representative from AUKEY, a technology designer and manufacturer known for its efficient, high-performance chargers and other device accessories. “The way you choose to charge can significantly affect your battery life as well as energy consumption. We design the cords to do their job well, but ultimately the consumers have the power to change energy consumption.
Tips to Prolong Battery Life
- Update your phone with the latest software which can increase your device’s energy efficiency. The less energy you’re using, the longer you’ll be able to use your phone before charging again.
- Utilize your device’s energy-saving modes to optimize performance. These features often affect phone brightness or pause functions that aren’t vital to your device operation. Low-power mode affords a longer battery life while allowing for the essential functionality of the device such as connecting to the internet, making calls, sending emails, or messaging.
- Dim the brightness of your device screen to use less power and set your default options to auto-dim during certain times of the day, after the phone is idle, or in certain conditions—your smart devices will be able to detect the surrounding light in the environment and adjust accordingly.
- Avoid extreme temperatures which can cause internal damage to your tech and ruin batteries. Exposure to high temperatures can permanently reduce the battery life of your device, and in cold temperatures, you’ll face the temporary drainage of your battery at a more rapid rate.
- Use a smart plug when charging from an outlet to consume less energy, especially when the device is not actively charging. With a smart plug, the possibilities for monitoring and managing energy use are compounded in positive ways.
- Ditch the case when charging your device. Often bulky cases trap heat during charging, and this often reduces the battery’s storage capacity. A hot phone indicates an inefficient charge. Remove the case while charging to save energy and avoid device damage.
- Disable location services which are actively communicating with satellites seeking to exact your location. Poor signal areas mean your phone is constantly searching and draining the life of your battery. Moreover, a phone with location services activated cannot enter sleep mode which conserves the battery.
- Stop unused apps that are running in the background and decreasing your battery life. Your phone will have cleanup and management features to help you monitor and disable any apps that don’t need to be running in the background.
- Avoid using damaged and unreliable charging cables which can increase both the time and energy required to charge your device. Any frayed cable is a fire hazard and should be discarded.
- Use your computer to charge your device only when it’s on. Charging your device while the computer is in sleep mode is an unnecessary strain on both devices.
- Charge your device when you can monitor it to avoid overcharging and wasting energy. If your device has a lithium-ion battery, this is less of a concern, but older devices left on a charger once fully charged are still receiving injections of power each time the device’s battery diminishes. This can ultimately reduce the battery’s capacity.
The efficiency of charging your device is dependent on more than just the technology you use. As the consumer, you have the ability to make decisions that directly impact the way your phones, computers, and tablets consume and utilize energy, literally placing the power in your hands.