Save Energy With Computer Upgrades and New Habits

Many homeowners can name the appliances and devices in their homes that consume the most energy -- the HVAC system, hot water heater and refrigerator top the lists in most North American homes. Consumer electronics generally use far less energy, but as we acquire more of these devices, the energy consumption can add up to a lot. And your personal computer could be contributing more to that load than most other electronics in your home.

No matter how many personal computers of different types you have in your home, you may be able to start saving energy right away by changing your settings and habits. And as your computers age and become obsolete, you can save even more by replacing them with energy-efficient models.

Getting Better All the Time

The coming advances in computer energy efficiency will have all kinds of benefits for users -- faster processing, less heat, smaller and lighter components and longer-lasting batteries. According to the MIT Energy Initiative, there are simple hardware modifications that can be made to computers right now that can cut their energy consumption in half. But as it stands, there are three billion personal computers are in use worldwide, consuming more than 1% of all energy. Another 1.5% is consumed by some 30 million computer servers. All together, they rack up energy bills as high as $18 billion per year.

If you want to take advantage of the most energy-efficient equipment available, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has made shopping easy for you. ENERGY STAR rates and certifies desktop computers, laptops, small-scale servers and other computing equipment, just like they do with major appliances. Even if you browse for computers elsewhere, you can return to the ENERGY STAR site to easily compare energy consumption data once you’ve narrowed down your list.

According to ENERGY STAR, if all U.S. computers met their certification standards, we’d save more than $1 billion per year and 15 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions -- the equivalent of taking 1.4 million cars off the road!

Set for Savings

If it’s not time for an upgrade just yet, you can still start saving right away by changing the power management settings on your computers. The exact procedure will vary by operating system, but most personal computers offer a similar range of options.

Many of us go days at a time without fully shutting down our computers, and this can waste lots of energy. But with power management settings, we can schedule various components of our systems to shut down after a certain period of inactivity. The EPA recommends setting monitors and displays to shut down after 20 minutes of inactivity, and suggests putting the entire system to sleep after two hours.

Even when your computer is shut down, however, it may continue to draw power as long as it remains plugged in. An easy way around this is to connect your computer to a power strip -- or better yet, a surge protector -- so that you can completely disconnect your computer from power with the flip of a single switch.

For a complete home energy audit or more assistance with household energy efficiency, contact your local electricians today.

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