Upgrade Report [Power-Saving Tips: Put Your PC on a Power Diet - 03/07/2006]

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March 7th, 2006

Power-Saving Tips: Put Your PC on a Power Diet

PC World Contributor Becky Waring

Refrigerators and washing machines aren't the only energy-guzzling
appliances living in your house. Your PC and its peripherals account
for a good chunk of your electric bill, too. When you consider that
just one computer and monitor can suck up nearly as much power in a
year as a new refrigerator, the benefits of a desktop energy audit
become clear.

Watch Your Watts

A typical 150-watt PC consumes about 876 kilowatt hours per year. At
an electric rate of 10 cents per kWh, that's $87.60 a year, before
taxes and fees!

Your system draws almost as much power when it's in standby mode with
a screen saver active as it does when you're using it. By turning off
your PC and peripherals when they're idle, and by employing power
management while they're on, you can cut energy consumption
dramatically. If you use your computer 6 hours a day, you could save
75 percent or more. (And even if you keep your PC on as a server,
you'll save energy by turning off the monitor when you don't need it.)

Laser printers and fax machines in particular are energy spendthrifts.
A typical multifunction laser printer and fax machine uses 300 watts
when printing, 85 watts when on standby, and 10 watts when idle. To
reduce your electric bill, plug your peripherals into a power strip
and turn off the strip when you shut down your PC. It's safest to keep
the PC and monitor plugged into an uninterruptible power supply; see
Steve Bass's June 2001 column for more on UPS devices:

By turning off your broadband modems and routers when not in use, you
also make your network more secure. Some power strips have timers that
automate this task--but don't use such a strip for your computer,
external storage device, or anything else that could lose data if
turned off inadvertently.

Finally, unplug all the wall chargers for PDAs, music players, digital
cameras, and other gadgets when you're not actually charging, or use
the power-strip trick mentioned above to shut them off. They can draw
up to 5 watts per hour apiece, even when nothing's plugged into them.

Become an Energy Star

To get to your computer's power-management settings in Windows XP or
2000, right-click the Desktop and choose Properties, Screen Saver.
Click the Power button to the right of the Energy Star icon, and
select the Power Schemes tab of the Power Options Properties dialog
box. For desktop PCs, choose the Home/Office Desk power scheme (it's
likely on by default). Under 'Turn off monitor' and "Turn off hard
disks," pick times you feel comfortable with: "After 15 mins" for the
monitor and "After 30 mins" for the hard drive strike a nice balance
between saving power and being a nuisance.

The Standby and Hibernate options under the Power Schemes tab are
useful for cutting your system's energy use, too. Read Scott Dunn's
Windows Tips column from last July on the pros and cons of the standby
and hibernate modes:

And for notebook power-saving tips, read "Optimize Your Notebook" in
Woody Leonhard's "Gunk Busters!" feature from January:

Now that you've cut the fat from your energy diet, it's time to reduce
your base metabolism by switching to lower-wattage Energy Star-rated
equipment. To qualify for the Energy Star label, a PC must use 70
percent less electricity than a model without power management
features, and must draw 15 watts or fewer in its inactive modes. An
Energy Star monitor uses up to 60 percent less electricity than a
standard model, and draws a maximum of 2 or 4 watts in its off and
sleep modes.

An LCD monitor uses about one-third the power of a CRT display with
the same screen area, according to monitor vendor ViewSonic. Visit
ViewSonic's LCD vs CRT page for more on the benefits of LCDs over

You'll also save energy by switching from a desktop PC to a laptop,
and from a laser printer to an inkjet. A typical laptop uses about
one-quarter the power of a similarly equipped desktop.

For tips on maximizing the battery life of your notebook, cell phone,
PDA, music player, digital camera, or other device, see "Battery

Visit our Upgrade Center for more how-tos, plus product reviews and
tech news:

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