Routers are, I’ve generally found, about the ugliest useful gadgets you’ll have in your home. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be eco-unfriendly, so NEC just launched a pair of home wireless routers that purport to be much greener than the one you have now.
And how do the two new members of the Aterm series, the WR8150N and WR4100N, achieve their eco-status? Are they made of recycled materials? Are they pressed in low carbon-footprint bioplastic? Do they come with a carbon-emission offset scheme? No, apparently none of those.
Instead, when you push their “Eco” buttons–a choice you have to make yourself–the little boxes, still sadly ugly, extinguish all but one of the little flickery status LEDs that manufacturers deem fit to dot on the exterior of Wi-Fi devices. The remaining LED sits as a reminder that the unit’s powered on. And if you’re not amazed, then get this: by switching off those LEDs, the routers save 30% of their power consumption.
By my calculation, my router’s wall-wart draws about 15W of power, and it sits on 24/7/365–roughly the equivalent of leaving a typical CFL lightbulb switched on all the time. It’s not much power, compared to an old 100W incandescent bulb, or your 1kW bathroom heater, sure–but NEC’s seen it’s possible to make a saving that’s simply achieved by omitting something unnecessary.
But I’m all for the simpler life, and I think NEC didn’t go far enough. Why leave the power light on, even? If the routers had an old-fashioned physical throw-switch, you’d know at a glance if they were on.
And then there’s every other rechargeable gadget you own: three of the 15 or so wall-warts in my home have LEDs on the plug itself, and four more have charging status lights. If they weren’t there, the units would be drawing a fraction less power, and arguably I don’t need them to glow in the first place. Forget revolutionary power-sipping power plugs, or automatic vampire-power-extinguishing power strips: if everyone’s rechargeable gadgets came without LEDs in, then the cumulative energy savings could be very significant indeed.
Down with the unnecessary LED! (except in the case of LED lighting, which is even more energy-efficient than fluorescent bulbs.)