Carnegie Mellon University
April 03, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Engineering Researchers Report That Changes in Video Console Standards Could Easily Lower US Electricity Consumption

Energy-saving Strategies Could Save Consumers $1 Billion Per Year

Contact: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PITTSBURGH—Modifications to popular video game consoles, like Nintendo’s Wii or Microsoft’s Xbox 360, may be one of the most cost-effective strategies for controlling demand for electricity in the U.S.

A team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers report a 50 percent increase between 2007 and 2010 in the amount of electricity used by today’s ubiquitous video game consoles.

“We are seeing this big increase because the number of video game consoles is increasing, the amount of time spent on the consoles is increasing so the amount of energy used is also skyrocketing,” said Eric Hittinger, a Ph.D. candidate in CMU’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) from Warwick, R.I.

CMU researchers report that the key driver of this increased electricity consumption involves what people are doing when they finish using the console. Consoles that are never turned off use more than 10 times as much energy, and adding an “auto-power down” feature (like on modern PCs) could save a huge amount of wasted electricity.

Clearly, gamers are riding the electric power grid to its limit with more than 100 million video game consoles in play now hogging 1 percent of U.S. residential electricity consumption compared to 75 million devices in 2010, according to Hittinger and his research colleagues Kimberley A. Mullins, an EPP Ph.D student from Toronto, Ontario, and Ines Lima Azevedo, executive director of CMU’s Climate and Energy Decision-Making Center and an assistant research professor in EPP from Portugal.

“We found that by using an auto-power down feature for game consoles, consumers could overall save more than $1 billion annually in electricity bills,” Hittinger said.

The researchers also admonish the game console industry to apply the auto-power down feature to the 100 million existing consoles and use existing video game reward structures to encourage energy-saving behavior in gamers.

The complete report, the first peer-reviewed study of game console electricity use, will be published in the journal Energy Efficiency later this year.