A power-hungry home office
No matter how sweet your home office might seem, you can blame it in part for racking up a bitter electric bill--especially if you're among the 4 million people in the United States who work from home. To start conserving power today, disabuse yourself of common myths about how your PC works. Consider the following:
- Do you let your computer run all day long while you grab coffee and take the kids to school, thinking that starting up wears down the machine? Contrary to popular belief, turning on your computer uses only about as much power as a mere few seconds of leaving it running. Instead of letting the computer drain power from the grid, turn it off.
- It's not enough just to buy an Energy Star computer. In order to take advantage of Energy Star's sleep-mode energy savings, first you'll have to turn on your PC's power management mode. To do so in Windows XP, go to Control Panel, Performance and Maintenance, Power Options. With a Mac OS 10 machine, check the Energy Saver within the System Preferences menu.
- Those aren't energy-saving angel wings on that flying-toaster screensaver; often, monitor screensavers use more power than sleep mode does.
But if you take a break from work by gaming, which demands a powerful video card or you push your PC past its limit by overclocking, you'll have to pay the price of an energy-gobbling system. Luckily for your eyes and desk space, flat-screen LCD monitors draw less power than bulky CRTs.
It's easy to find Energy Star appliances, including computers, printers, and monitors with frugal electricity demands. But you can look for even more stringent standards by checking for a PC that consumes between 50 watts idling and 125 watts at full power, suggests Home Power magazine. Intel and AMD have been battling to produce cooler processor chips, and Congress is encouraging more efficient servers. For a greener machine with fewer toxic ingredients in addition to energy-sipping practices, check out the EPEAT rating system.
It takes just a moment to select settings within Windows XP that tell your computer to hibernate when not in use.
You can't pin the blame for a high electric bill on any single tech toy. Instead, direct the finger-pointing at the mundane clothes dryer, the freezer, and the electric stove; combined, they add up to some 13 percent of the average electric bill. Benign in comparison, the average desktop computer accounts for less than 2 percent of your overall electrical bill, and laptops demand a piddling 0.1 percent. But added up, adopting energy-stingy computer habits will cut down on standby power waste to shave that phantom 10 percent off your electric bill. It's not enough just to set up Energy Star equipment. When you have so many cords and switches to wrangle, power accessories can help you manage the mess and see how much electricity you're using.