Want an easy way to save energy and money in your home? Start by shutting off your computer. It can be a huge energy suck, especially if it sits running while not being used during the day or night. It is estimated that you can save $75 a year in energy costs just by making a few easy changes in the way you use—or don’t use—your computer or laptop.
1. Completely turn off your computer when you know you will not be using it for more than several hours, such as overnight.
2. Think you might want something on your Windows computer as soon as you shut it down? Windows-based computer users can download Presto, an instant operating system that allows you to do quick tasks like emailing, browsing the web, making Skype calls, creating documents and more without waiting for Windows to boot, which has got to be an energy saver. Shutdown is a quick one to two seconds, too.
3. Use the power management settings of your computer and/or monitor to automatically put the unit into sleep or hibernation modes after a certain time of inactivity. Energy Star’s new 5.0 standard calls for computers to enter one of these low-power states after 30 minutes or a monitor after 15 minutes. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, you can save $40 or more a year on a new home desktop computer, $12 or more on a home laptop, or $18 or more on an LCD monitor just by using power management settings at the Energy Star levels. And you can save even more by choosing more stringent sleep modes.
4. Don’t just shut the lid of your laptop or notebook computer and expect it to go to sleep, unless your computer is set to enter sleep mode when this happens. (This often needs to be programmed in the power management settings.)
5. Some programs can also prevent a computer from going into sleep, including some games, streaming banner ads on web sites, antivirus software that is set to scan more than you may need it to, virtual private networks, and some peripherals that remain plugged into your computer. You should quit these programs or unplug peripherals when they are not being used.
6. Don’t use a screen saver. They use more energy than they’re worth and prevent your computer from going to sleep. The best screen saver is a blank screen.
7. Get your computer tuned up. We tend to clog our computers with programs and files, and after a couple years, that computer that once blazed through tasks starts running slower and slower—all the while using more energy to get things done. If you don’t want to bring it to a pro, get software like iolo’s System Mechanic that helps you clean out a registry of old and obsolete stuff.
8. You can also increase your system memory (RAM) to reduce disk usage, which can be a power draw.
9. If you have a desktop computer, upgrade to an LCD flat-panel monitor instead of a CRT monitor, which can account for half the energy use of a desktop computer. “Monitors and displays have been one of our biggest savings opportunities,” says Energy Star’s Katharine Kaplan. “It’s such an easy way for people to save.”
10. Plug all your electronics into a surge protector that you can easily switch off when you leave the room or go to sleep. If you leave them plugged in and the surge protector is switched on, the power supplies for your peripherals can still draw standby or “vampire” power.
11. Shut off that printer. Some printers have a sleep mode that consumes a significant amount of power; the printer might look like it’s off, but it isn’t. Most printers will also consume a small amount of power when plugged in and turned off.
12. Replace wireless mice and keyboards with wired mice. Wired mice and keyboards use little energy and avoid draining batteries.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates