Eco-friendly Tips for Your Computers

Many of us are interested in finding ways to conserve energy, both to help the environment and to reduce spending.  Did you know that your computer is one of the biggest energy consumers in your home and office?

This article provides some great tips on how to keep your computer eco-friendly while putting some cash back in your pockets.

Power Management

Most people know that turning off computers and other electronic equipment saves power.  However, even when your devices are off, a large amount of power is still being consumed.  This is known as “phantom load”.  It can account for up to 40% of the total power used by home electronics.

One certain way to eliminate phantom load is by unplugging your appliances.  But this can be inconvenient for many people.  Instead, plug your electronics into power strips.  Some power strips on the market can detect if a computer is powered on or off.  If it is off, the strip will cut the power to all peripherals.  For older types of power strips, you can easily flip the ON/OFF switch of the power strip to power ON/OFF multiple devices at the same time.

If your computer must remain on, choosing power settings that allow the device to hibernate can reduce consumption up to 80%.

Put Your Monitor to Sleep

One of the biggest energy drains of your computer system is your monitor.  It accounts for 33% of the electrical usage of your entire computer system.

Configure the sleep mode in your monitor to automatically power down when you are away from the computer (look for “Power Options” in the Control Panel).  Because “sleep mode” only reduces energy consumption, when you know that you will be away for a longer period of time, turn off the monitor.

TIPS: Consider lowering the brightness of your monitor; the brighter your display, the more energy it consumes.  As an added bonus: people have reported that a dimmer display reduces eye strain.

Switch to an LCD Monitor

Flat-panel Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors use significantly less energy and generate less heat than bulky CRTs.  When replacing a CRT monitor, though, make sure it does not end up in a landfill.  A simple online search for “electronic recycling” or “monitor recycling” will help locate organizations that recycle computer peripherals.

Get Rid of Your Screensavers

Screensavers were originally designed to protect older monochrome monitors from screen burns.  Newer monitors, such as those that use LCD or LED technology, do not need screensavers at all.

Animated screensavers can be fun but they consume as much energy as a monitor in use.  Instead, make use of the monitor’s sleep mode (see above).  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), turning off the screensaver can save you around $50 per year on energy costs!  Think of it as getting a $50 check for your birthday every year just by turning off something frivolous: your screensaver.

Energy-Saving Modes

Many people leave their computers powered on around-the-clock.  Some do this to avoid lengthy boot-up time, others want to leave our computers on so we can access them remotely or so that automated maintenance processes can run.

One way to combine the “always on” convenience with energy conservation is by enabling Standby or Hibernate mode (also one of the “Power Options” in Windows).  With these energy-saving modes, you can set your computer to ‘sleep’ after it has been idled a certain amount of time, and the computer will only ‘wake up’ when you return or when it is running scheduled maintenance tasks.

Standby vs Hibernate

Standby Mode Your computer still uses some power but the power to peripherals such as your monitor and hard drive is cut. When you come back to your computer, you’ll be up and running quickly.  However, your computer will be using more energy than the hibernate mode.
Hibernate Mode Your computer is not using any power at all. Of the two, this mode definitely saves the most energy.  However, the time it takes for everything to power up will be a bit longer than Standby mode.

Keep your Computer in Tune

For any appliances, proper maintenance preserves its life span, and the same holds true for computers.  Much like a car engine, a properly-tuned computer can run more efficiently: a lean computer uses less electricity and performs much better.

To extend a computer’s life span, optimize system performance by routinely defragmenting your hard drive, uninstall any seldomly used programs from your hard drive, and running anti-virus programs (many of which are free) to prevent malwares and viruses from existing on your system.

By keeping your computer in good running condition, you’ll also be able to hold on to it longer, thus saving you the costly expense of a new computer.

Recycle Your Old Computer

Eventually the day will come when you are ready to say goodbye to your old computer.  When that happens, rather than throwing your computer away and adding to the world’s growing waste problem, why not recycle it?

Research by the EPA found that in 2007 only 15% of discarded computers were recycled.

Instead of throwing away an old computer, consider passing it on to a child or donate it to a local school, charities or other non-profit groups.  Before giving your computer away, however, be sure to reformat your hard drive and perform a clean install of the operating system.

Buy Green

Before buying a new computer, visit http://energystar.gov to get a list of makes and models that are energy-efficient.

Many computer manufacturers now offer “green” models that use less energy, have more reusable/rechargeable components, or use recycled material.

Consumers nowadays prefer to buy laptop instead of desktop computers.  A laptop actually uses up to 50% less electricity than a desktop machine.  To optimize battery usage, most laptops have energy-efficient features built-in.

TIP: If you only use your computer at home, you could consider setting up your laptop like a desktop, with a decent-size monitor, keyboard and mouse.

More Eco-Friendly Tips!

Print green.  Here are some ways to save paper and ink when printing.  First, many websites provide “printer-friendly version” option.  Web developers often provide an alternate pared-down version of the online website just for printing purposes, often by excluding ads, reducing spacing and unnecessary images/contents.  Secondly, try printing documents in fast/draft mode and on both sides of the page.  Use recycled paper made with at least 30% post-consumer-content.  Last but not least, recycle used ink cartridges.

Go paperless.  Nearly all major utilities, banks and credit card companies offer online bill payment services.  Both of these options save paper, postage expenses and time.

Read your news online.  Rather than buying the paper version, go online!  Many newspapers and magazines now produce online versions.  Utilizing online subscriptions cuts down paper usage.

Work from home.  Many companies now allow employees to work from home.  This movement keeps more cars off the road, thereby reducing carbon emissions and alleviate traffic jams.  Just make sure you get your work done, be discipline and productive at home!

Shop online.  Online shopping saves you from having to physically go to the store.  Not only does this save time, it also saves gas and eliminates the pollution produced by driving to the store.  When buying products, ask for environmentally-friendly packaging whenever possible.

Go digital!  From music and movie downloads to GPS and digital cameras, the digital age provides new alternatives for purchasing hardcopy materials and packaging.

By following these eco-friendly tips, we can all do our part to save the environment.

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Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 2:57 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

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