No, leaving your PS5 and Xbox on standby isn’t the reason your energy bill is so high

Big companies always blame video games for something. Usually it’s violence, as any longtime player will tell you. But rising energy bills are certainly a novelty. This time around, British Gas claimed that switching off ‘vampire appliances’ could save you ‘on average £147 a year’ or $183.

Outlined in a BBC News report, British Gas has advised customers to check which devices are left plugged in – laptops, TVs, phones, consoles, you know the drill – and switch them off to save money. That’s standard advice, but given the recent UK cost of living crisis, it’s come down like a lead balloon, with many calling these figures inaccurate.

As noted by Eurogamer, one response read: “This is factually incorrect and a shameless act of fearmongering on the part of British Gas. Televisions are required by law to use 0.5 watts or less per hour on standby since 2013. That’s 4.38kW per year. With electricity at 30p/kW it will cost £1.31 per year. To say it costs £24.61 is a lie.”

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For those who don’t know, we have recently seen terrible increases in the cost of living in the UK, which has had a significant impact on Britain’s poorest people. Rents are rising, food prices have risen by 6% on average, and general inflation has increased by 7%. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the average salary increases do not match. Soaring gas and electricity prices are among the most pressing concerns, thanks to an increase in Ofgem’s price cap this month.

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In this context, British Gas has been criticized for shifting the blame for the high bill price onto consumers and, in my view, rightly so. Just to be clear, I’m not a British Gas customer, but my own electricity bill goes up by £80 in June to £157 a month (about $195), and that’s just for a two-bed apartment . People everywhere are in a rush and blaming video game consoles for this increase is, frankly, ridiculous.

What power saving settings do I have on the consoles?

Xbox Series S on black background

(Image credit: Shutterstock/m.andrei)

Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely turn off your home entertainment. There’s not a lot of money to turn off devices when not in use. So if you’re looking to find ways to lower your electricity bill while gaming, there are a few things you can do.

Other than lowering the screen brightness or putting it in “airplane mode”, there aren’t many options specifically on Switch, although Nintendo’s overhauled models have reduced power consumption considerably. In a power consumption test, Digital Foundry found that some gameplay scenes used 40-50% less power on these new variants, compared to the original Switch.

On PS4 and PS5, you can go to System Settings > System > Power Saving and Rest Options, although there isn’t much there. All of this provides options to automatically put your PS5 into rest mode after a certain amount of time, choosing what features are available in rest mode like USB charging, and how long before the controllers automatically turn off. There is also automatic screen dimming when your PS5 is idle.

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However, Xbox Series X|S consoles go much further with Energy Saver mode, which was recently updated to allow you to download system and game updates. Using 20 times less energy than the sleep mode, this is also the default option when gamers are also setting up their console for the first time. The only compromise is to wait a few more seconds to load your console but personally, I’ll take the hit. I’m just happy that such a step is taken by Microsoft.

You can certainly save a few bucks over the year by keeping your devices turned off, but don’t be fooled into thinking this will suddenly save you a lot of money. The BBC report is tantamount to telling people that if they cancel their Netflix subscription, they will be able to afford a house in a few years. Good.

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