Demand for electrical goods poses carbon threat

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The Independent Online

Britain's love affair with gadgets is intensifying, with 30 million electrical goods forecast to enter homes in the next six months.

Research for the Energy Saving Trust suggests that many now regard juicers and bread-makers as essential items.

The government-funded trust believes sales of new televisions, mobile phones and digital cameras will soar in 2007. And it warned that the proliferation of gadgets, and the increase in energy used by homes, threatened to raise emissions of carbon dioxide per household, worsening climate change.

Household appliances have become 2 per cent more efficient in energy every year, but the fall has been outpaced by the surge in the number of gadgets. While a typical home in the 1970s had 17 gadgets - items such as a television, vacuum cleaner and hairdryer - a 21st century home has 47, with a typical household now containing a fan, microwave oven, computer and power tools.

Household appliances' electricity consumption doubled between 1972 and 2002, the Energy Saving Trust said in a report in the summer, Rise of the Machines. The organisation said yesterday that spending on consumer electronics was predicted to rise by a third between 2001 and 2009 to £6bn a year, with sales of mobile phones, digital cameras and television sets each expected to reach more than two million.

The trust found in its survey that two thirds of people regarded a cordless telephone as essential item and half believed the same of an electric toothbrush. Most considered juice-makers and coffee machines to be luxuries - but a quarter did not. Philip Sellwood, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: "Some electrical items will be replacements but ... it is clear that householders are increasingly adding new electrical gadgets to their homes. We're very surprised by what people claim are essential products."

He warned that the country's growing passion for gadgets was having a "significant impact" on energy bills and on the environment.

Over the past 10 years, electricity consumption from consumer electronics and domestic IT has increased by 47 per cent. Electricity for such gadgets, including TVs and DVD players, is forecast by the trust to rise by a "staggering" 82 per cent in the next five years, Mr Sellwood added.

Professional middle-class males are the most enthusiastic buyers. The Energy Savings Trust warned that buying "state of the art" items such as a plasma television was one example of "gadget addiction". It conceded that a plasma TV was an attractive-looking item, but added: "What many customers won't know is that they use four times more energy than a traditional TV, costing £100 a year to run."

The trust, which is funded by the Government and private companies, advises householders to ask themselves whether they really need to buy certain electronic appliances.

Gadgets in demand

Plasma TV

Sales of plasma televisions soared in the run up to the World Cup this summer and have performed well since. But there's a hefty financial and environmental cost to pay for owning one. Their energy use, greater than a cathode ray set, costs £97 per year - the equivalent of 404kg of carbon dioxide, vastly more than other gadgets. A moderate sized LCD television is more environmentally friendly.

Laptop

Laptops can be bought for as little as £300. They are relatively cheap in energy, costing just £3 per year to run. But almost one-third of its CO2 emissions, four out of 13kg, comes from leaving the machine on standby.

Freeview Box

There are more than seven million such boxes that can receive dozens of free television channels in homes around the country. Running one uses 51 kilowatt hours of electricity a year and generates 30kg of CO2; it also adds £7 per year to a household electricity bill.

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