Green Audio Tips
Simple ways to save energy with audio systems.
green audio tips
January 22, 2008 by Steven Castle

Audio has probably never been associated with environmentalism. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, but having killer audio is often thought of in terms of power—100 watts per channel and home theater systems with thousands of combined watts. Yummy yum yum yum. But all those watts cost you money as the electric meter spins round and round. And come to think of it, using that kind of juice may not be so good for the environment. What’s an audio lover to do?

The good news is that you don’t have to join a commune and limit your audio enjoyment to meditative chants. You can limit your audio energy consumption just by exercising a little common sense.

Do you really need 100 watts of sound per channel in your family room, when 50 or 60 watts may do just as well? And by the way, 30 watts per channel is usually plenty for background music throughout the house.

If you yearn for more power, get speakers with higher sensitivity ratings, like 90 or 93 dB, and match them to a receiver with a lower power output. Sensitivity is a measure of how well a speaker can play when powered by a small amount of energy, and an increase of 3 dB in sensitivity, say from 87 to 90 dB, is equivalent to doubling the power.

Need a power amplifier? Consider a Class D amp. These modulating or switching amps are more efficient than Class A or Class AB amps, as less energy is dissipated as heat. We know the purists like Class A, but some better performing Class D amplifiers are making it to the market.

Energy-saving whole-house audio systems are also possible. For example, NuVo’s six-source, six-zone Essentia E6G system meets Energy Star requirements for using less than 1 watt of power in standby mode by shutting down the amplifier and keypads when not in use. The system also meets international standards restricting the use of hazardous materials.

Plug your audio/video systems into a good switchable surge suppressor, and switch it off when you’re not using your system, so the components don’t continue to use power for things like waiting for a remote signal. See “Why Your Electronics Suck (Energy).” A surge suppressor that is turned off will still protect your components from a power surge, because the circuit is effectively broken. Make sure it’s a surge suppressor and not just a power strip. Good surge suppressors will have a clamping voltage of 330 volts (the lower the better) and an energy absorption rating of at least 600 joules (the higher the better).

And if you have them, blog in some additional green audio tips!

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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