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News: Home appliance energy use to double by 2010

Consumer electronics in the UK are set to guzzle twice as much energy by 2010, a report has warned.

Despite a move to make many electronic appliances more energy-efficient, the number of electronic devices owned by an average household has increased greatly over recent decades, according to The Rise of the Machines, a study commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust.

Britons' love of gadgets means energy consumption from household domestic appliances doubled between 1972 and 2002. The report predicts that it will double again by 2010.

A typical 1970s home contained just 17 energy-using products among them televisions, washing machines, toasters and vacuum cleaners.

Three decades later that number has more than doubled thanks to newcomers such as computers, juicers, extractor fans, games consoles such as the PlayStation and electric toothbrushes.

Set-top boxes required for the digital TV switchover will alone cost up to £780 million per year to run, according to the report. That’s around £30 per household. And plasma screens can use up to four times as much power as a normal TV.

With the average home owning 2.4 TVs and some 6% - 10% of household energy wasted in stand-by consumption, television is a big energy culprit, but the EST report predicts that the sheer volume of new gadgets to come will swamp any energy savings that can be made by manufacturers.

The predictions come despite the fact that 72% of consumers surveyed said they would choose more energy-efficient electrical products if they knew which ones were the best to choose. 82% of those surveyed said that because of the impact energy consumption had on climate change, energy-efficient purchasing was as important as buying organic food or Fairtrade goods.

And over half the people surveyed said they were willing to pay a premium for products that benefited the environment, ahead of designer labels and even organic products.

Paula Owen, the EST's head of information, said the predicted jump in energy consumption was "…largely due to the sheer volume of products available and the phenomenal growth of the market."

At present, only large items such as dishwashers and washing machines are labelled for their energy consumption. The trust also wants smaller items to be labelled for their efficiency and calls for the government to set minimum standards for stand-by power usage.

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