If you live in California, charging your electronics will soon be getting a little cheaper. Last week, the California Energy Commission approved new rules governing efficiency for battery chargers, including those used for phones, laptops, and even vehicles like forklifts or golf carts. Since the Commission estimates that only about 36 percent of electricity used by chargers actually makes it into batteries, companies will have until next year to provide the same performance with improved efficiency in consumer electronics, either by reducing the amount of power needed for a full charge or by no longer drawing electricity once the battery is full. Currently, many chargers continue to use power even after a device is done charging or has been unplugged, a phenomenon known as "vampire" or "no-load" power.
The Commission says the new rules will save 2,200 gigawatt hours a year, enough to power 350,000 homes or a city the size of Bakersfield. Though California is the first state to ban low-efficiency battery chargers, several other states are looking into similar rules, as is the US Department of Energy. While the California rules will provide a good testing ground for the chargers, this also means that manufacturers could potentially be dealing with a confusing patchwork of local and national laws, especially when it comes to customers who buy goods online. For now, we'll have to wait to see how this is implemented, but the Commission proposal (PDF) explains more about how the regulations might work.