Greener computing - tips to save electricity costs
Oct 5, 2007, 14:55 GMT
Washington - These days, with energy costs skyrocketing, it pays to practise green computing. A typical computer uses anywhere from 65 to 400 watts of energy. While that may not put the computer in the same energy-sucking league as an air conditioner, the energy draw is not insignificant, especially when you consider that many computers are left on for a long time - if not all day and night - and that some households have multiple computers.
The bottom line is that doing what you can to cut down on the amount of energy your computer uses makes good sense. Not only will you be helping the environment - consider that there are a billion computers in use today, according to recent research by US-based analyst firm Forrester - but you'll also be reducing costs where it counts to you: in your own home. Here are some ways you can get started.
--- Turn it off
For convenience, a lot of folks leave their computers running all of the time, including evenings when the machine is doing absolutely nothing but waiting. Sure, there are standby and sleep modes available in today's operating systems, but your computer still draws energy in these modes, and some components - such as hard drives - may not be included among those parts of the computer that are put into a lower-power state.
Even in a deep sleep mode or when turned off entirely, your computer continues to draw electricity. Plugging the machine into a power strip that can cut off the supply of energy with a switch is a good idea to ensure that your PC is truly off.
--- Buy low-power machines
In desktop computing, the trend is toward more and more power. While CPUs - the main chips in a personal computer - have gotten smarter about using energy, other components - including graphics cards and hard drives - have been slower to catch up. The result is that some enthusiast computers these days ship with 600, 800, or even 1000 watt power supplies to ensure that enough energy is delivered to all of these ultra high-powered components.
Typically these machines are designed and geared toward those that run the most demanding of applications, including sophisticated rendering, modelling, video editing, or gaming. And they use a lot of energy - as much as twice that of a typical desktop PC. Unless you know you need the power, look for mainstream, energy-saving machines over souped-up models. Or consider whether you could get by with a notebook computer. These invariably use less energy than desktops yet are more than powerful enough for the needs of most folks.
No matter which type of computer you use, activate its energy- saving features for those periods of time that it remains plugged in and running.
--- Ditch the screen saver
A large monitor can use almost as much energy as the PC itself, and it continues to run on full power even when displaying a screen saver. On modern LCD displays, screen savers are no longer necessary. LCDs can suffer from something called 'image persistence' - which refers to a kind of ghost image that can remain when a static image is left displayed for a long period of time. But this condition is usually self-correcting. You can avoid it altogether and still save energy by setting your monitor to turn itself off automatically after a certain period of inactivity. Or you can use a screen saver that does not display a moving image. In Windows, choosing the 'blank' screen saver is the most energy-efficient.
--- Check your peripherals
All of the peripherals and gadgets that are attached to PCs or networks today also draw power, and these are easy to forget. While printers, scanners, and other peripherals often have low-power modes, like a computer, they continue to draw a small amount of energy even when in a deep sleep. If they didn't, they could not be awakened automatically when a print job or other signal from the computer told them to wake up.
To entirely cut off the supply of energy to these devices, consider plugging them into a switched power strip so that, with the press of one button, you can cut off the power to all of the devices.
--- Cut down on consumables
Green computing is not all about the computer itself. The consumables - paper and ink - used by today's laser, inkjet, and photo printers require energy to produce.
And computers have made it very easy for us to print, the result being that paper consumption has gone up, not down, since computers have become popular.
Most printing, however, is completely optional. You can save energy as well as lower your cost of consumables by being smarter about how and when you choose to print.
Lots of routine printing tasks can be eliminated altogether if you get into the habit of using the screen to proofread. Also, when buying a printer for typical office user, look for models =that can print on both sides of a page - a process called duplex printing. If you don't have a duplex printer, you can achieve the same result by turning over the pages and feeding them again through the printer.
You can do a lot to reduce the energy that your computer and peripherals use simply by changing old habits. While doing so may take some effort, the payoff will be tangible - both for the environment and for your pocketbook.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur