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Keeping your smartphone charger plugged in all night will not send you to the poor house

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Keeping your smartphone charger plugged in all night will not send you to the poor house
Most of us charge our smartphones overnight while dreams of super spec'd flagship phones dance in our heads. But it usually takes just 2 hours to fully power up the battery on our phones. So what are the costs financially if we leave our phones plugged past those two hours while we sleep? And what is the cost of leaving the charger plugged into the wall even if the phone isn't attached to it? Read on to find out!

According to Cambridge professor David MacKay, if you unplug your charger from the wall when not in use, over a year you will save the same amount of energy it takes to run a hot bath. In other words, you are not consuming much electricity by leaving the charger in the wall. As Professor MacKay puts it, "Obsessively switching off the phone charger is like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon. Do switch it off, but please be aware how tiny a gesture it is." If you have your phone connected to the charger, the amount of energy used rises by a factor of ten, but still remains relatively low nonetheless.

A study that dates back to 2012 done by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed that a charger plugged into the wall used an average of .26 watt. When a phone was connected to the charger, the average amount of electricity used rose to 3.68 watt. Once the phone is fully charged, that figure dropped down to 2.24 watt. For the average household, the study showed an average cost of $5.30 to charge a smartphone on an annual basis.

It is no good for your phone's battery to keep your handset charged for long periods of time after it hits 100% charged. This behavior can lead your phone to require a new battery earlier than it would normally need one. Lithium ion batteries, like the ones used by most smartphones, should not be kept at 100% for long periods of time. Experts say that for optimal battery life, you should run your battery for a short period of time, and then plug it in for a short time. It is like having your battery take several short walks instead of running one long sprint. The latter is more taxing for your body.

source: TechRadar

61 Comments
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posted on 18 Jan 2015, 22:08 1

1. Busyboy (Posts: 553; Member since: 07 Jan 2015)


That's what they want us to think, so we can use more electricity giving the CEO's more bank.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 08:46 2

46. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)


you could easaly prove/disprove this get a kill-a-watt and test the theory

http://www.walmart.com/ip/P3-International-Kill-A-Watt-EZ-Electricity-Usage-Monitor/14282371

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 22:21 1

53. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)


I found this too its costs about $.60 in water and natural gas to take a shower. So this article says it takes about the same energy to leave my charger plugged all year in as it does to take one shower for me it worth it not to think about unplugging the charger.

http://www.paystolivegreen.com/shower-water-and-energy-use-calculator/

posted on 30 Jan 2015, 20:54

61. downphoenix (Posts: 3165; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


a bath typically uses more water and energy than a shower does, about twice as much.

posted on 18 Jan 2015, 22:32 15

2. Youraveragejoe (Posts: 124; Member since: 31 Oct 2014)


So running one bath per household per year.. 7 billion people on earth.. Even if 3.5 billion own cellphones and say 1.75 billion follow this process, we definitely save a lot of electricity!

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 02:05 10

5. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Not to mention there are usually more than 1 charger per person. Tablet, phones,laptops.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 03:42 1

7. seanwhat (Posts: 280; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


this is a dumb way to think. if you take anything and multiply it by 1.75 billion you're gonna get a big number.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 15:22 3

33. uRiBiTo666 (Posts: 55; Member since: 02 Jun 2013)


Yes. But, again, compare it to the electricity we use. We have light bulbs that consume at least 60W of power. And we have a few. We have alarm clocks, TV's, ovens, electrical stoves, etc. So the ammount we save doing this compared to the ammount we still use makes the former insignificant.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 19:19 1

37. annonymous1 (Posts: 15; Member since: 16 Dec 2011)


really? how about multiplying by zero =p

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 04:42 2

9. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


LOL no! it just mean that every person of that 1.75 billion can save electricity for hot bath once every year!

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 09:19 1

22. jstine35 (Posts: 2; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


1/100th of 1% of total annual energy consumption is still 1/100th of 1% of total annual energy consumption, regardless if you multiply it by 1.75 billion or not. If it's insignificant on an individual scale, it's also still insignificant on a global scale. Unplugging your charger won't change much about the world's energy usage. No one except you will notice.

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 22:27

54. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)


its a odd argument think about this if you just took a shower every other day rather than every day you would save as much energy as having 182 charger plugged in for a year. And then if you switched to just chargeing in your car and did not charge at home you should start a hash tag #savetheplanetchargeyourcellinyourcar

posted on 22 Jan 2015, 19:49

56. Z3R091 (Posts: 87; Member since: 13 Apr 2014)


Nice intro Alan F. "Most of us charge our smartphones overnight while dreams of super spec'd flagship phones dance in our heads."

posted on 18 Jan 2015, 22:46 9

3. Settings (Posts: 1589; Member since: 02 Jul 2014)


But who wakes up at 3AM to charge their phones?

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 06:04

13. chocowii (Posts: 445; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)


Hugo Barra does.

posted on 18 Jan 2015, 22:51 7

4. gaara6775 (Posts: 738; Member since: 20 May 2014)


Sorry but I simply off my phone at night & go to sleep.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 03:28 2

6. rphunter (Posts: 21; Member since: 02 Nov 2014)


OK, if it is not a good idea to charge the phone overnight, WHY does Apple suggest this in its documentation? I have been doing this since 2009, with several phones, and have not ever had a problem with a phone battery. My wife does the same thing, so that doubles the time period. The power use is about the same as an electric clock, So maybe I should unplug those when not in use too? Insane!
You will save more electricity by replacing ONE incandescent light bulb (60 watt), with a CFL bulb each year. I noticed when I reaplaced all my incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs, my electricity use dropped about 40%, and the next month, the electricity rate went up 50% You can't win!

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 04:55 1

11. god996 (Posts: 34; Member since: 27 Oct 2013)


Wow, a literal iSheep!... You would probably jump off a cliff if Apple suggested to in its documentation?
Maybe you are lucky, or maybe I'm not because I, for example have a few phones with nearly dead batteries because of overcharging.
And now I have a Nexus 5 and if I unplug it for the night, its battery won't drop for more than 2-3% in the morning. I think that's not much of a loss.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 07:35 2

16. pocketbook (Posts: 21; Member since: 26 Mar 2014)


lmao, overcharging isn't even a thing anymore. Lithium ion batteries have a failsafe built in to prevent exactly that.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 02:18

43. avidSomnambulist (Posts: 3; Member since: 20 Jan 2015)


"Wow, a literal iSheep!" says the Nexus 5 owner.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 02:21 1

44. avidSomnambulist (Posts: 3; Member since: 20 Jan 2015)


Just FYI, this is being posted from my own beloved N5. I'm probably already familiar/agree with all the arguments you can present for buying/owning one. Just poking fun.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 21:15

40. hmmm... (Posts: 78; Member since: 05 Jun 2013)


You only save electricity if you replace it with a lower watt CFL. If you replace a 60watt bulb with a 60 watt CFl, it is essentially the same. I think a 60w fluorescent tube will be better than a 60w incandescent bulb... and you can tubes that contains no mercury unlike CFL

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 14:37

52. andynaija (Posts: 896; Member since: 08 Sep 2012)


All fluorescent lamps contain mercury.

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 22:30

55. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)


They do but it’s not truly dangerous unless you breathe it in the fumes as you break a bulb

posted on 02 Feb 2015, 23:29

62. hmmm... (Posts: 78; Member since: 05 Jun 2013)


Thanks for the info...

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 03:44 3

8. Yogurt (Posts: 3; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


What in the world is the matter with you commenters?

1) This is about saving money. You act like electricity needs to be saved but it doesn't. Electricity is unlimited.

2) It says very specifically that you should unplug your charger. It just goes on to say that it's not exactly going to save your pocket a whole lot of money.

3) Savings is a personal thing! I am not saving electricity for my neighbors, I am saving it for my wallet. Therefore trying to say "Sure it might not be much individually but if everyone worldwide unplugged their charger it would add up" is a bunch of garbage. No one is doing it for their fellow man.
3B) It does not even add up! 8 billion people in the world. let's say they all own 3 devices which is ridiculously high. At 5.38 per device per person per year, that would be a worldwide cost of 129 billion dollars per year.
The united states government spends 2000-4000 billion each year. (2-4 trillion). That's just one country in the world.

4) Want to know how much you can save on electricity?
Take a look at your monthly bill. That number on there is the very most you can save ever. That is the very definition of savings.
It could add up if you change certain parts of your life but then again you might decide it is not worth it. For example, let's say you run your heater all month and your bill is 120 dollars. Next month you go completely without heat, the bill is 60 dollars. You saved 60 dollars but I personally would rather spend the 15 dollars a week for heat. You could go without a refrigerator too but I wouldn't recommend it.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 04:50

10. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


Lol right, is alot money for one person...not for 8 billion.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 05:48 2

12. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Electricity is unlimited?

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 07:08 1

15. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


I think he might have discover the power of fusion. Then electricity is unlimited.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 09:00 1

20. lallolu (Posts: 471; Member since: 18 Sep 2012)


That was the funniest comment I have read all day on this site. And he said it with such certainty :)

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 09:08 1

21. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


That's why electric cars are awesome, because you charge it once, and it goes forever :P

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 15:35

34. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


we are not talking about doomsday or when fosil and nuclear material depleted, we talk about daily life of human on modern day about charging cost... in that contect electricity exist 24/7 anytime, hence it is unlimited

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 15:56

35. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


We know but you really can't say "electricity is unlimited" and not expect there won't be any troll comment. :P To real save electricity, we need to look into the way we distribute electricity now, because so much are lost from the power plant to your outlet.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 16:05

36. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


well some comment are just plain oblivious unlike you.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 23:57

42. MochaBean (Posts: 14; Member since: 06 Jan 2015)


No, but energy cannot be consumed, so it is, in practice, infinite.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 11:28 1

49. callmearia44 (Posts: 2; Member since: 20 Jan 2015)


Of course energy can be consumed, which is the conversion process. It cannot be destroyed. Electricity is just a form of energy that is converted to heat, another form of energy, when consumed. Electricity is very finite in the sense that we have to convert energy to an electric form and that conversion process is itself very finite. Give me one example of an infinite energy source we are capable of converting to electricity? It doesn't exist, or at least we haven't figured it out yet. Not even the sun is infinite. Not to mention the raw materials involved in converting forms of energy to electricity are also finite.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 09:26

24. jstine35 (Posts: 2; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


Additionally, in most American households 95% of electricity is consumed by three things: 1. hot water heater, 2. clothes dryer, 3. refrigerator (and in that order).

If you have gas hot water and gas dryer then then chances are your electric is like $25/mo and you're probably paying 8-12x that just for various media servies: cell, internet, cable... and another 10-15x for car.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 12:02

28. Jason78 (Posts: 241; Member since: 10 Apr 2013)


You are forgetting about heat and air-conditioning. Yes, some houses use gas or fuel oil to heat but there are lots and lots of houses and apartments that are all electric.

posted on 27 Jan 2015, 11:22

60. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)


Miser!

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 06:49 1

14. Yogurt (Posts: 3; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


Yes electricity is unlimited. We can easily come up with more.

For example, Washington state has so much hydropower that they run at 50% capacity because of two reasons 1) the hippies/environmentalists think it affects the salmon spawning and 2) there are concerns of overloading the grid with too much electricity.

The last nuclear power plant was built in 1976. We can now build them far safer with twice the output and take up half the amount of land needed. We could bulldoze one and put two in it's place. Twice the jobs so they can afford the $5.38 it costs per year to keep their charger plugged in.
Why are we not doing it? 1) Hippies/environmentalists 2) it would actually solve an issue and then politicians can't use it as reason to get reelected.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 08:11 1

17. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Electricity might be plenty there, but it's certainly not unlimited.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 08:54

19. sanchesyoo (Posts: 13; Member since: 20 Sep 2014)


Haven't you heard about energy being transformed from one kind into other, not being created from thin air... Physics 101

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 09:25

23. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


We are talking about electricity, not energy. I know it transforms from one form to another and energy is limited in the universe.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 10:32

25. sanchesyoo (Posts: 13; Member since: 20 Sep 2014)


Electricity IS energy by the way ;)

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 11:33 1

27. Neo_Huang (Posts: 1067; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)


But you can't get it without a cost.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 14:23

29. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


True, but energy is not electricity. And while we can use fossil fuels, wind energy, water energy and so on to create electricity, there is a limit to what we can create. Hence my statement electricity is limited.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 15:15

31. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


what limit are you talking about? can you give example when human on modern day can not have electricity anymore? as long human exist there is always electricity (not count on past) hence why he/she said it's unlimited.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 20:01

38. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Apart from people not able to pay the electric bill, most people wouldn't run out of electricity. Doesn't mean we shouldn't pay more attention to saving power, how small the difference can be. And he claimed electricity doesn't need to be saved, yet creating electricity has a negative impact on live,even our own.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 06:46

45. sanchesyoo (Posts: 13; Member since: 20 Sep 2014)


What negative impact is there on using wind turbines and solar panels to transform that energy into electricity? Yes, hydro electric equipment has some impact on water but that's nothing compared to using fossil fuels or atomic energy which are limited resources. Thus I call saving energy a bull... On the use of unlimited resources we never run out, never need to save, and last but not least never need to worry about environmental damages. Only thing is cost, but that's a passing thing due to tech being cheaper and safer to build year by year

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 09:24

48. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Wind turbines impact life on birds and bats, causing deaths as researched by the National Wind Coordinating Committee. The impact of solar energy is a bit more difficult to show, you can read this (http://solareis.anl.gov/guide/environment/).
Keep thinking saving energy is bull, I think it's a bit shortsighted.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 21:30

41. hmmm... (Posts: 78; Member since: 05 Jun 2013)


There are still many places where there is no constant electricity supply.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 08:20 2

18. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


Also they do not think it affects salmon, it does affect the salmon in streams around Washington. When the water temperature rises, the fish suffer from that. That is why they are at 50%. You make it sound like hippies/environmentalists are making stuff up.

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 03:57

50. Yogurt (Posts: 3; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


Hippies/environmentalists do make this stuff up.

It's been made up all my life to make us scared of actually accomplishing something.

In 1994, I was still in grade school when we were informed that by the year 2000 the world was going to end due to deforestation of the rainforest.
2000 has come and gone. I am still alive. What happened? Hippies were wrong - the rainforest grows back at an astounding rate. We can't even calculate the rate of growth. Every time we do, it grows faster than previously calculated.

There is not a shred of evidence that hydropower affects salmon spawning. They think it does.
Our ancestors were at one point all scared that we can fall off the edge of the flat Earth. People get things wrong all the time. Why let theories and possibilities ruin what we already know - we need more hydropower.

posted on 21 Jan 2015, 04:51

51. RebelwithoutaClue (Posts: 2887; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


The rainforest grows back because nowadays when they take down a tree, they plant one as well. And where is your proof of it growing faster than calculated?
And no hippies nor environmentalist didn't make this stuff up. I'm not saying they never do, but not in this case. Even the hydropower industry is well aware of this effect and take measurements of limiting the impact on flora & fauna:

http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/sustainable/ecosystems-fish/

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/tmdl/HangmanCr/impairments.html

I know people get things wrong all the time, you are living proof of that.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 10:33 1

26. willard12 (Posts: 1677; Member since: 04 Jul 2012)


You're not a scientist. But, you did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 14:29

30. WhatTheHeckJustHappened (Posts: 1; Member since: 19 Jan 2015)


It makes me happy to know that I am so much smarter than Cambridge professor David MacKay. It seems that he thinks there is only one person on earth that has a phone charger.

I could be wrong, but I think there may be more than one.

So if that study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that shows an annual average cost of $5.30 to charge a smartphone is multiplied by say a bazillion, how much would that save? How many bazillion less tons of coal would be burned? Dave? Dave? We need an answer.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 15:22

32. medtxa (Posts: 1133; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


how much money you could have if every each person on planet give you 1 cent? it's clear that you are not as smart as you claim.

posted on 19 Jan 2015, 20:36 1

39. kevin91202 (Posts: 557; Member since: 08 Jun 2014)


"...a charger plugged into the wall used an average of .26 watt. When a phone was connected to the charger, the average amount of electricity used rose to 3.68 watt. Once the phone is fully charged, that figure dropped down to 2.24 watt.
...
It is no good for your phone's battery to keep your handset charged for long periods of time after it hits 100% charged.
...
Experts say that for optimal battery life, you should run your battery for a short period of time, and then plug it in for a short time." -PA

The author is confused on how batteries in smartphones and portable computers work.
1. The device/charger stops charging the battery once it's fully charged.
2. Once the battery is fully charged to 100%, the device is being powered by the charger. The charger, at this point, is no longer charging the battery.
3. The battery slowly loses its charge even though the charger is plugged in. Why? Because, again, the charger is not charging the battery. The device is running off the power provided by the charger.
4. Once the battery's charge dips below a certain percentage threshold, the device will allow the charger to start recharging the battery again back to 100%.
5. This cycle repeats itself as long as the charger is plugged in without interruption.
6. The battery never remains at 100% for very long. It begins to immediately lose its charge as soon as the charger stops charging it even while plugged in.

It's quite safe to leave the charger plugged in. As I have explained, the battery is cycling between charge and no-charge for the entire time it's plugged in. Contrary to what the author is attempting to convery, you are not damaging the battery. And it is NOT constantly charging it.

posted on 20 Jan 2015, 09:03 1

47. BJRCollins (Posts: 4; Member since: 18 Nov 2012)


Think of all the electricity you could have saved by keeping the senseless blathering offline. Before commenting, think about the children.

posted on 23 Jan 2015, 15:31

57. Sealblaighter (Posts: 220; Member since: 26 Jan 2014)


So we should not fully charge our phones?

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