No, your high energy bill isn’t due to your PS5 and Xbox being on standby

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Opinion: British Gas’ recent comments blatantly pass the buck.

image credits: vetyvet

Video games are frequently blamed by large corporations for a variety of issues. As any long-term player will tell you, it’s usually violence. Rising energy bills, on the other hand, is a brand-new phenomenon. British Gas claims that turning off ‘vampire devices’ can save you “an average of £147 per year,” or $183.

British Gas recommended customers to examine which items are left plugged in — laptops, TVs, phones, consoles, you name it – and switch them off to save money, according to a BBC News report. It’s typical advice, but in light of the UK’s recent cost-of-living crisis, many are dismissing these estimates as false.

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One reaction, as seen by Eurogamer, reads: “This is false information, and British Gas is shamelessly scaremongering. Since 2013, televisions have been obliged by legislation to use no more than 0.5 Watts per hour in standby mode. This equates to 4.38 kW each year. It will cost £1.31 per year @ 30p/kW electricity. It’s a deception to say it costs £24.61.”

For the uninitiated, the UK has recently seen some exorbitant cost-of-living rises, which have disproportionately harmed the poorest citizens. Rent costs are increasing, food prices have grown by 6% on average, and overall inflation has increased by 7%. However, it’s perhaps surprise that typical pay gains haven’t kept pace. Due to an increase in Ofgem’s price cap this month, soaring gas and electric prices are one of the most pressing worries.

In this context, British Gas has been chastised for shifting the blame for high bill prices onto consumers, and properly so, in my opinion. To be clear, I’m not a British Gas customer, yet my monthly electric bill increased by £80 in June to £157 (about $195), and that’s just for a two-bed flat. People are being squeezed everywhere, and blaming video gaming consoles for this growth is, to put it mildly, absurd.

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On my consoles, what energy-saving settings do I have?

Even if times are tough, that doesn’t mean you should turn off all of your home entertainment. There’s only so much money that can be saved by shutting off devices while they’re not in use. So, if you’re looking for ways to save money on your electric bill while gaming, there are a few options.

There aren’t many alternatives on Switch aside from dimming the screen or putting it in ‘Flight Mode,’ though Nintendo’s redesigned models dramatically reduced power consumption. In a power-draw test, Digital Foundry discovered that some gaming situations utilised 40% to 50% less power on these newer Switch variations than on the original Switch.

On both the PS4 and the PS5, go to System Settings > System > Power Saving and Rest Options, albeit there isn’t much to see here. All this does is give you the choice of placing your PS5 into Rest Mode after a particular amount of time has passed, choosing which features are available in Rest Mode, such as USB charging, and how long until the controllers turn off automatically. When your PS5 is turned off, the screen dims automatically.

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However, thanks to Energy Saver mode, which was recently enhanced to allow you to download system and game updates, Xbox Series X|S consoles go substantially further. It’s also the default setting when gamers first set up their console because it uses 20 times less power than Standby mode. The only cost is a few extra seconds of waiting I’ll take the hit if you load your console, but I’ll take the hit if you don’t. I’m just relieved that Microsoft is taking such steps.

Keep your devices turned off to save a few pounds over the course of the year, but don’t be deceived into thinking it would save you a lot of money all at once. The BBC article is akin to telling people that if they cancel their Netflix membership, they’ll be able to buy a house in a few years. This is a good one.

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