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Making Your Computer More Energy Efficient

by Nick Vassilev
29 Mar 2010

 Whether you have a fully equipped home office or whether you only touch a computer when you’re at work in an office outside the home, there’s no denying that a computer is a wonderful tool – that uses electricity.

While it is true that computers are not one of the big consumers of electricity in today’s home – they consume only a minute amount in comparison to, say, electrically heated water or ovens – they still consume some. Every little bit counts when it comes to saving electricity, so why pay for power (and create a larger carbon footprint and/or more pollution if your local electricity comes from petrol or coal-fired power plants) that you don’t actually have to.

These tips should help you feeding your computer more electricity than you have to:

* Shut your computer down overnight. It doesn’t need to sit there on standby for eight hours (if you’re getting the right amount of sleep) doing nothing. Apparently, this is also good for the system. PCs running Windows Vista need to be shut down and restarted every two or three weeks, while those running earlier versions of Windows need complete shut-down and restarting more often.

* While standby and hibernate modes use some power, they use less than just letting the computer sit there with the screen saver bouncing around the screen. If you’re using Windows, you can adjust the power save mode via the Control Panel under the Screen Saver settings. Some keyboards have a helpful little button (with a picture of a crescent moon on it) that you can press to put the computer to sleep instantly – like the spindle does to Sleeping Beauty – without going through 10 minutes of screensaver. Use this button when you know you’re going to be away from your computer for an hour or more (if you’re going to be away for more than five hours, turn the whole thing off). If you haven’t discovered this little setting – a lot of people haven’t – then make friends with it next time you get fed up with your current screen saver and want to change it. Or how about doing it right now?

* At home, you don’t need to keep the printer on the whole time. Just turn it on when you need it. OK, if you are likely to need it several times in one day, then keep it on. This is particularly true of laser printers, which use a lot of energy to start up. But if you aren’t going to need it today, don’t even bother turning it on.

Some figures from the USA give an indication of how much power could be saved if everyone followed these simple tips. The UK figures should be similar, although scaled down to suit the population.

* If everyone in the USA shut their computers down overnight, this would save the amount of electricity put out by eight big power stations.

* Using the Power Settings to make the computer go to sleep (hibernate, low power mode, standby mode or sleep mode) can save up to 80% on your current energy usage if you’re not currently using them.

* Only 5% of current computer and laptop users have set the power settings to the most efficient mode (US figures).

* The speed of your computer will depend on the regular computer cleaning and the home equipment.

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