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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday May 23 2014

I don’t like my mobile phone, because I don’t use it enough to justify the expense.  Only the map app is of any real use to me.  I rarely use either the phone itself (i.e. for phoning) or the camera.

Or rather, I did hate it, until I read this, at David Thompson’s blog, about how much power it takes to charge up a mobile phone, and therefore how much it enlarges the carbon footprint and hence the self-hatred of an agonised mobile-phone-using Guardian writer:

How terrible should I feel, and what can I do?

A helpful commenter, apparently, responded thus:

Telephone chargers use pathetic small quantities of energy.

Is that true?  I had been assuming that my mobile uses a formidable large quantity of energy whenever I recharge it, and hence a formidable large quantity of money.  Which is why I have been hating it.  All that juice, just for a map and about three calls a month.  But if my phone only uses a pathetic small quantity of energy, and hence only a pathetic small quantity of money, then I am happy about it again.  I may even get to like it.  It’s a Google Nexus 4, by the way.

So, how much does it cost (to hell with my carbon footprint – let the trees around whatever power station I use gulp that in for their breakfast) for me to power my phone from empty of power, to full?  Answers gratefully received in the comments.  Educated guesses welcome.

Incidentally, a pet hate of mine is when I ask someone, who knows something quite accurately (that I want to know) and far more accurately than I do but who nevertheless refuses to guess, because he can’t be as accurate as he would like to be.  (It’s almost always a he – only human males are regularly this socially obtuse and lacking in empathy.) How much does this cost?  Don’t know.  Guess!  No, can’t, don’t know.  Rough figure?  Less than a quarter of a pee?  Oh no, definitely more than that.  More than ten quid?  Oh no, less than that, obviously.  (Obviously to him, in other words.) Right, so you do have a rough idea.  So, what is this rough idea?  Five pee?  Five quid?  What?  What?!?!  You get the idea.

I am not calling you an idiot, unless you do have an educated rough idea of what it costs to power up a mobile phone like mine, but refuse to part with it on the grounds of your answer being too vague to satisfy you, in which case I definitely am calling you an idiot.  If you know but can’t be bothered with telling me, or if you know but you now don’t like my tone, well, I can’t say I’m happy about that, but I perfectly understand.

You can probably get a rough feel for the cost of charging things by looking at numbers on your charger. Mine says it can put out 350mA (or 0.35amps) @ 5volts. Which means it power output may get up to 0.35x5 = 1.75 watts. To ball park that, imagine a 1.75 watt light bulb and what you think it might cost to run compared to say a 40 watt light bulb for an hour or two a day. From here on I don’t really think any more calculation is required or worthwhile as in both cases the answer is going to be $FA.

Posted by Rob on 24 May 2014

Thanks guys.

Although, that first link leads to a great big spiel which says everything except how much one charge costs.  Charging per year, after they’ve guessed how often people charge, but not an actual charge.  Actual cost per charge is either absent or present but so overwhelmed by other stuff that I couldn’t find it. 

So, like the internet as a whole, for me, often, when I am trying to get a simple answer to a simple question.

Yet one more way in which humans are still ahead of the computer.  They listen, or some of them do, to your exact question, and they answer it.

So, thanks Rob, in particular.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 24 May 2014

To continue Rob’s estimate; if said 350mA/5V charger was used for 2 hours every day, that’d be 3.5 Watt hours per day, or 0.0035 kWh. Multiplied by 365 days, that’d be 1.2775 kWh/year. At current standard Brum electricity prices of £0.17/kWh (your tariff may vary) that comes to £0.22. Per year.

Posted by Friday Night Smoke on 24 May 2014

To continue, it is often recommended to unplug such chargers when not being used, in order to save electricity. From experience, Switch-Mode Power Supplies (SMPS) of which a phone charger is a common example, consume around 1 watt on ‘standby’. Doing the same calculation, but for a constant 1 watt draw over 1 year, comes to a cost of £1.49. This meagre cost can be saved by labouring for around 2 seconds per day (at least) spent unplugging and replugging the charger into the mains, which comes to an hourly rate of £7.45 at best, which is actually more than I thought. Whether that’s worth it or not is left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by Friday Night Smoke on 24 May 2014

Thanks once again for all this enlightenment.  I truly had no idea how much it does not cost to recharge a smartphone.

Blog and learn.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 25 May 2014

From the point of view of thermodynamics, a mobile phone is a device for converting electricity into heat and light. The amount of heat and light it gives off is miniscule compared to (say) an old fashioned incandescent lightbulb. One of those costs pennies a day to run. Therefore a rule of thumb is that the cost of the phone will be miniscule compared to pennies a day.

(The charger gives off heat and possibly light, too, but of the same order of magnitude as used by the phone).

Posted by Michael Jennings on 26 May 2014
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