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Charging a Mobile Phone: how much electricity does it consume?

By on April 22, 2016 with 9 Comments  

Telecom boom in India has had such a great impact that it has made sure that half of India has mobile phones (source: Indian Express). Every other person in the country has a mobile phone and it is increasing. We thought that mobile phones are integral part of our lives, so why not do a test on how much electricity does it consume. We picked up our device to measure electricity consumption and plugged a mobile charger to it. We waited on it for long. The mobile phone got charged but the counter on the consumption-measuring device did not even move a unit.

So how much power does a mobile charger consume?

A typical mobile phone charger is rated at anywhere between 3-7 W (source: Lawrence Berkeley Lab) while charging. Which means even if your phone takes 2 hours for charging it will just consume 0.006 to 0.014 units or kWH of electricity to charge. Which means even if you charge your mobile phone every day you will spend only 2-5 units in the whole year!

But do you keep the mobile phone on charging only for 2 hours? Or do you keep it on charge overnight? As per the same research by Lawrence Berkeley Lab, if the mobile phones are kept on charge even after it is fully charged, it still pulls about 2-4 W of electricity. Although the number is insignificant from a personal context, but if we combine the numbers for all the people having mobile phones in the country it can be big. Although a lot of it cannot be avoided because it is a choice between convenience and a small wastage.

Are there different efficiency levels for different types of chargers?

Very much yes. Mobile phone charges as well as many other battery chargers have transformers that convert AC (Alternating Current) to DC (Direct Current). Transformers not only convert electricity but they also consume it. They have 50-90% efficiencies in using electricity (source: EPRI). In fact they consume electricity even when cell phone is not connected to the charger and the switch is on.

In many developed countries there is standards set for efficiencies of battery chargers. So the battery chargers that come along with the products from the companies comply with those standards. Thus the universal adapters or adapters sold separately available for various mobile devices are much less efficient than those that come along with the original factory made product.

A sign of inefficient charger is that it gets heated up quickly. So in case you had to buy a charger after you lost the charger that came with your mobile device, make sure that it is of good quality and does not heat up. If it is heating up then it means that it is leaking electricity.

So all in all, a mobile phone is relatively inexpensive to charge and contributes very less to your electricity bills. But there are few things that you can do to save electricity for the nation:

  1. Switch off the mobile charger from the plug point when the cell phone is charged.
  2. Do not leave the cell phone on charger for much longer after it is charged.
  3. Try to avoid after market and unbranded chargers. Even if you had to buy one, make sure that it does not get heated up.
About the Author:
Abhishek Jain is an Alumnus of IIT Bombay with almost 10 years of experience in corporate before starting Bijli Bachao in 2012. His passion for solving problems moved him towards Energy Sector and he is keen to learn about customer behavior towards Energy and find ways to influence the same towards Sustainability. .

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