Better adapters for cell phones, gadgets could cut green house gases dramatically

If the approximately 1.5 billion power adapters that connect our cell phones, digital cameras, answering machines, camcorders and countless other gadgets to wall outlets used less power, Americans could save billions of dollars on their electric bills and protect the environment, EPA says. Today, EPA announced that the ENERGY STAR label is now available for external power adapters that meet EPA’s newly established energy efficiency guidelines. Power adapters, also known as external power supplies, recharge or power many electronic products — PDAs, MP3 players and other electronics and appliances. As many as 1.5 billion power adapters are in use in the United States — about five for every American.

In the United States, more efficient adapters have the potential to save more than 5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year and prevent the release of more than 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.

Power adapters are devices that convert AC (alternating current) power from a wall outlet into DC (direct current) power that is used to power electronic products. Adapters are crucial to the operation of virtually all small electronic devices, yet they tend to be very inefficient. In the United States alone, total electricity flowing through external and internal power supplies is about 207 billion kWh/year, equal to about $17 billion a year, or six percent of the national electric bill. On average, ENERGY STAR-qualified power adapters will be 35 percent more efficient.

EPA is promoting the most efficient adapters since they are commonly bundled with so many of today’s most popular consumer electronic and information technology products. Sales of these products continue to show explosive growth worldwide. If this trend continues, the energy use from consumer electronics and small appliances could account for almost 30 percent of a typical home’s electricity bill by 2010. By comparison, the average household today spends 45 percent of its energy bill on heating and cooling, and just six percent to continuously run a refrigerator. Encouraging the use of more efficient power adapters will help stem this growing energy consumption.

Consumers will soon be able to purchase a variety of products, such as cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, camcorders, that are shipped or sold with ENERGY STAR qualified power adapters. Eventually, these new efficient adapters will be incorporated into a wide spectrum of products
including laptops, cordless phones, and office equipment, as well as other products and as replacement adapters sold separately. Products with qualified adapters will be identified by the ENERGY STAR label on product packaging, literature, or store displays.

EPA is announcing the first retail and manufacturing partners and showcasing new adapter technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 8. Companies working with EPA include Phihong, Lite On and Bias Power. These power adapter manufacturers alone account for more than 22 percent of the current power supply market. EPA is also working with Hewlett-Packard, Samsung Telecommunications America and Panasonic.

EPA first announced draft efficiency guidelines and testing procedures for power adapters at the electronics conference in Anaheim, Calif., in February 2004. EPA finalized the guidelines in December 2004.

Power adapters join the more than 40 categories of products, including lighting, appliances, home office equipment, home electronics and heating and cooling equipment that can earn the ENERGY STAR label. Annually, ENERGY STAR helps Americans save enough energy to power 20 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 18 million cars — all while saving $8 billion. For additional information on ENERGY STAR, visit our Web site at:

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