How Energy Efficient are Mechanical Keyboards?

April 9, 2024

Your mechanical keyboard has awesome LED backlighting. You can connect additional devices through its pass-through ports. Your Dolby sound system, which is connected to the keyboard's audio jack, is blasting great sound effects.

It's very cool, but your mechanical keyboard is still an electronic device that draws electrical power. How much energy does it use while gaming and typing? How much energy does it use when you turn on the LEDs? When does it use electrical energy?

That's what we're going to discuss here. We'll also include tips on how to lower your keyboard's energy consumption. You'll be implementing an eco-friendly action that contributes to a healthier environment.

How Are Mechanical Keyboards Powered Up

Just like most computer peripherals, mechanical keyboards are usually powered up through a wired connection. They are designed to be plugged into a computer or another compatible device via a USB cable. When the keyboard is connected and switched on, it draws power from the device it's connected to whether it's a desktop computer, laptop, gaming console, or other compatible device.

Some mechanical keyboards offer wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth. Internal rechargeable batteries power up these wireless keyboards. These batteries need to be charged periodically using a USB cable connected to a power source such as a computer's USB port or a USB wall adapter.

Some wireless mechanical keyboards are also powered by external batteries that are widely available anywhere. When the batteries run out, simply replace the batteries. 

Energy Consumption and Efficiency: Mechanical Keyboards vs Membrane Keyboards

mechanical keyboard vs membrane keyboard

Except for monitors and the CPU itself, computer peripherals, including keyboards, consume very little power. Let's compare the energy consumption and efficiency of mechanical keyboards versus standard membrane keyboards:

  1. Mechanical Keyboards: Mechanical keyboards consume very low power. Since they are primarily passive devices, they only draw power when keys are pressed, and this power consumption is minimal.  

A typical mechanical keyboard without additional features such as LED backlighting, USB pass-through ports, or audio jacks would consume around 100 milliwatts (mW) to 500 milliwatts (mW) during normal operation.

If the keyboard has LED backlighting, power consumption could increase slightly depending on the brightness level and color configuration. LED backlighting typically adds 100 milliwatts (mW) to 500 milliwatts (mW) of power consumption.

Mechanical keyboards with additional features like USB pass-through ports or audio jacks may consume slightly more power due to the additional electronics required to support these features. The devices may draw from 500 mWs to a few watts.

  1. Membrane Keyboards: Membrane keyboards also have low power consumption. Like mechanical keyboards, they draw power primarily when keys are pressed. However, they may consume slightly less power than mechanical keyboards due to their simpler construction and lack of mechanical switches. The power consumption of membrane keyboards is also typically in the range of milliwatts to a few watts.

The differences in energy consumption between mechanical and membrane keyboards are marginal and do not significantly impact overall power usage. The power consumption of the CPU, monitor, sound system, and other power-hungry devices would have a more substantial impact on energy usage.

How To Save Energy When Using Mechanical Keyboards

But you want to save every milliwatt! Well, boost the energy efficiency of your mechanical keyboard with these practical tips: 

  1. Turn off LED backlighting when not needed: If your mechanical keyboard has LED backlighting, turn it off when you don't need it. LED lights can consume additional power, so disabling backlighting when can help save energy.
  2. Use sleep or standby modes: Some mechanical keyboards may have sleep or standby modes that automatically shut down the device after a period of inactivity. Enabling these modes can help conserve energy.
  3. Unplug the keyboard when not in use: If you're not using your computer for quite some time, unplug the keyboard from your computer or the power source. Doing this ensures that your keyboard is not drawing power unnecessarily.
  4. Adjust polling rate settings: Some mechanical keyboards allow you to adjust the polling rate, which is how often the keyboard sends input signals to the computer. Slightly lowering the polling rate reduces power consumption without significantly affecting its performance.
  5. Avoid using additional features: If your mechanical keyboard has extra features like USB pass-through ports or audio jacks, avoid using them if you don't need them. These additional features can consume additional power.
  6. Keep the keyboard clean: Dust and debris can interfere with the mechanical switches, causing them to require more power to actuate. Regularly clean your keyboard to reduce the power it needs to operate.
  7. Consider energy-efficient models: When purchasing a new mechanical keyboard, look for models designed to be energy-efficient. Some keyboards may have features specifically aimed at reducing power consumption.

Possible Future Energy-Saving Technology for Mechanical Keyboards

a variety of mechanical keyboards

Emerging energy technologies for computer peripherals are on the horizon. As energy-saving technologies advance rapidly, we will see many of them applied to mechanical keyboards. Here are just a few predictions:

  1. Energy harvesting: Integration of energy harvesting technologies such as piezoelectric or electromagnetic systems could allow mechanical keyboards to generate and store small amounts of energy from user interactions. This harvested energy could be used to power certain features of the keyboard, reducing reliance on external power sources.
  2. Low-power wireless connectivity: Continued advancements in low-power wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) could enable more efficient wireless connectivity for mechanical keyboards. 
  3. Efficient LED backlighting: The development of LED technologies such as micro-LEDs or organic LEDs (OLEDs) could result in improved energy efficiency for backlighting. Implementing smart lighting controls that adjust the brightness based on ambient light levels or user preferences could optimize energy usage further.
  4. Advanced power management features: Integration of sophisticated power management features such as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) or intelligent sleep modes could help mechanical keyboards adapt their power consumption based on user behavior and usage patterns. 
  5. Energy-efficient materials and components: Research has been poured into energy-efficient materials and components such as low-power microcontrollers, energy-efficient switches, and power-efficient circuit designs. 
  6. Solar power integration: Integrated solar panels into mechanical keyboards enable them to harness solar energy for charging internal batteries or directly powering the keyboard. This could provide a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source for wireless mechanical keyboards.
  7. User awareness and customization: Providing users with greater visibility and control over the energy usage of their mechanical keyboards through software interfaces or companion apps could encourage more energy-conscious behavior. Examples of such features include real-time energy usage monitoring, customizable power-saving profiles, and recommendations for optimizing energy efficiency.

Conclusion

While it may seem insignificant, your mechanical keyboard still uses electricity to power itself. And if you want to lower your energy bill, you will need to save every iota of energy. Mindful usage and energy-conserving habits can lessen your power consumption as you use your keyboard. As technology advances, we can anticipate the development of even more energy-efficient keyboards.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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