Forget mobile phone chargers – they are not the problem!

I participated in the recent IBM Global Eco Jam and there were some fantastic discussions there.

One of the discussions surprised me though – people were still talking about unplugging mobile phone chargers as if that was a significant problem. It is not. On the contrary, it is a dangerous distraction.

Watch the video above. Seriously, do. I’ll wait.

The mobile phone chargers I tested all consumed 0.1W or less of electricity when left plugged in and not charging a phone. That is minute.

Sure, I get that if you add up all the millions of mobile phone chargers across the country, all those millions of 0.1W adds up to a significant load. I get that. I do.

LED Light

LED spot light

However, if you change one 50W halogen bulb for a 3.6W LED alternative that is the equivalent of unplugging over 460 mobile phone chargers. And that’s just from changing one bulb. How many bulbs do you have in your house? How many houses are there across the country containing how many bulbs?

Or forget light bulbs. What about the electricity draw of other devices in your house when they are plugged in but not operating (this is called standby power!)?

Well, my microwave consumes 3.5W when plugged in and not in use (that’s 35 mobile phone chargers worth), my printer draws 5.9W when on and not actually printing (59 mobile phone chargers worth), my Nintendo Wii draws a whopping 9.5W when on and not in use (95 mobile phone chargers worth), even cradles for cordless home phones can be consuming eight times more electricity than mobile phone chargers!

Mobile phone chargers, for some reason, seem to have been picked up by people as the bad boys when it comes to standby power. That is a dangerous fallacy. Why dangerous? People who are trying to do the right thing are ensuring that they unplug their mobile phone chargers, potentially unaware that their microwave/printer/games console is consuming orders of magnitude more power than the phone charger.

Switchable power strip

Switchable power strip

Don’t get me wrong, sure you shouldn’t leave your phone charger plugged in, but it is likely that there are far larger standby draws in your home or office you should be aware of. Educate yourself. Find out which of your devices draws the most power

How do you know which devices consume the most power? Find a little plug-in electricity meter to measure the power draw of your appliances, they are quite cheap and easy to find online – check here, here and here, for example. In some cases your local utility company may even supply them.

One of the things I do is to plug multiple devices into a power strip with a switch, this way I can quickly kill their power draw by flipping a single switch.

But stop talking about unplugging mobile phone chargers – by themselves they are a minuscule draw. Unplug everything.


  1. says

    Hello Tom, just wanted to tell you that I quite enjoyed your mini research there with the mobile chargers. Frankly I thought the more recent the phone and its charger would be the higher the consumption would be due to multitask features better graphics etc…you definitely clear my mind on that aspect. Thank you for that.
    It is also good to know that the difference that your bills and energy consumption will have by simply changing and lowering the voltage at your home on energy lighbulbs. Will definitely recommend this post and social bookmark it. Cheers

  2. Quest says


    Just a question about hp printer. I am when I press the power button and the lights go off its off or is it on stand by?

    I am unsure, would I need to unplug it to save energy?


    • says

      For a definitive answer, you would need something like a KillaWatt – a device to measure the power consumption of your devices – but more than likely, yes, unless your printer is plugged out, it is still consuming electricity. Same with your TV, DVD player, microwave, monitor, ext hard drive, dishwasher, etc.

      The best solution is to have these devices on power strips and either unplug the power strip, or buy one with a switch, which can easily be switched off.