Making the Most of Your Computer

Computer DesktopComputers are an integral part of our everyday lives. We use them for work, recreation, learning, and entertainment. However, about 90% of the desktop computers we use on a daily basis are not optimized to be energy efficient. As such, we are essentially throwing away between $40 and $80 each year from their continued operation. There are many ways to help conserve energy from your computer, and they are all quick, easy, and free.

According to Intel, properly setting the power management section of your computer can save you more than 400 kilowatt hours (kWh) each year. We’ll show you how setting this up on your PC is as easy as just a few clicks of the mouse. First, you need to click on the Start button at the bottom left of the screen. Next, you want to click on Control Panel. Once you are in the control panel, switch the layout to Classic View, scroll until you find Power Options, and then click on it. Under Power Options, there should be the settings: Balanced, Power Saving, and High Performance. Most computers are defaulted to Balanced, but by switching them over to Power Saving, you’ll be well on your way to saving energy.

If you want to have more control over your power consumption, choose Create a Power Plan from the top left of the window. This will ask you to select a base plan from the original three and customize it to your needs. Select the Power Saving base plan, then look at the advanced settings. There are two tabs from the list you’ll want to look at: Hard Disk and Display. Under Hard Disk, open the Turn off hard disk after tab and set the time limit to 2-5 minutes. When you are not actively using the computer’s hard drive, it will turn off and stop spinning to save energy. Under Display, set the same time limit. You may need to adjust the time on this some depending on how fast you read, as the screen may go dark before you reach the bottom of a page. In addition, under the Sleep tab, set your computer to go to sleep if it is inactive for more than 15 minutes. This will cut way back on the power draw of computers that are normally left on for long periods of time. Of course, it is best to shut a computer down entirely if you do not plan to use it for several hours, but in today’s always on world, that can be a bit difficult to do sometimes.

If you’re still using an old CRT monitor, consider switching to a thinner, lighter, much more energy efficient LCD monitor. They can save you about 100 kWh per year, and they provide a much better performance than CRTs.

All of the settings and menus in this article were referenced on a Windows Vista operating system. Windows XP, 7, and 8 may differ slightly from the aforementioned steps. Mac users can find all of their power management settings under the Apple pull down tab, System Preferences, and then Energy Saver.


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