However, unless very carefully designed and using suitable components, switching adapters are more likely to fail than the older type, due in part to complex circuitry and the use of semiconductors. Unless designed well, these adapters may be easily damaged by overloads, even transient ones, which can come from lightning, brief mains overvoltage (sometimes caused by an incandescent light on the same power circuit failing).
But others[who?] have argued that these inefficient devices are low-powered, e.g., devices that are used for small battery chargers, so even if they have a low efficiency, the amount of energy they waste is less than 1% of household consumption of electric energy..
Considering the total efficiency of power supplies for small electronic equipment, the older mains-frequency linear transformer-based power supply was found in a 2002 report to have efficiencies from 20–75%, and have considerable energy loss even when powered up but not supplying power. Switched-mode power supplies (SMPSs) are much more efficient; a good design can be 80–90% efficient, and is also much smaller.
Many inexpensive switched-mode AC adapters do not implement adequate filtering and/or shielding for electromagnetic interference that they generate. The nature of these high speed, high-energy switching designs is such that when these preventative measures are not implemented, relatively high energy harmonics can be generated, and radiated, well into the radio portion of the spectrum. The amount of RF energy typically.
A survey of consumers showed widespread dissatisfaction with the cost, inconvenience, and wastefulness of the profusion of power adapters used by electronic devices. Science fiction author and satirist Douglas Adams wrote an essay bemoaning the profusion and confusion of power adapters, and calling for more standardization.
The European Union defined a Common external power supply for “hand-held data-enabled mobile phones” (smartphones) sold from 2010, intended to replace the many incompatible proprietary power supplies and eliminate waste by reducing the total number of supplies manufactured. Conformant supplies deliver 5 VDC via a micro-USB connector, with preferred input voltage handled ranging from 90 to 264 VAC.
External power adapters can fail, and can become separated from the product they are intended to power. Consequently, there is a market for replacement adapters. The replacement must match input and output voltages, match or exceed current capability, and be fitted with a matching connector. Many electrical products are poorly labeled with information concerning the power supply they require, so it is prudent to record.