Care and Feeding of your Energy Pig, or Computers on a Diet
Did you ever wonder which parts of your computer are using the most power and what you can do to reduce energy use? Take the Handelsblatt PC Energy Quiz to test your knowledge and improve your eco-IQ. The quiz is, of course, in German so you can enjoy the opportunity to exercise your brain in your foreign language skills as well (if you are not a native German speaker exercising your English here). In case you don't trust your German computer vocabulary, or want a little cheat sheet, you can find english translations of the most interesting points over the fold.The CPU is the hungriest power pig in the typical PC, but the choice of processor can make a big difference. Handelsblatt mentions a range from the Pentium-4 family (95 - 130 Watt) over the Intel Core2 Duo (65 W), AMD Athlon 64 (62 W) to the AMD Sempron 64 (35 Watt).
Switching off when not in use is the best way to reduce power consumption. Which devices should you turn off first? Keep your laser printer off when you are not actively pushing out pages. At 20 - 30 Watts in stand-by (it may be as much as 150 - 300 Watts for multi-function devices), the laser printer far exceeds the 3 - 15 Watt used by the PC or the 1 - 3 Watt used by the monitor in stand by.
Replacing your old tube monitor with a new active matrix LCD flatscreen will reduce the energy consumption by at least 50 percent. Keep in mind, though, that the production and disposal of your monitor has a cost to the environment as well: the best course may be to buy renewable power and use that tube monitor until it stops ticking.
Remove USB devices when these are not in use. Most USB devices draw power as long as they are still connected.
Screensavers aren't power savers. Colorful active screen savers keep the graphic card active, preventing it from falling into a standby mode.
Use the computer's energy-saver program to best advantage. If you choose the setting for automatically switching to stand-by after 5 minutes without activity, you may actually be using more energy by frequently restarting the hard disk. The 30-minute shut down option may be a better indicator that you have really stepped away. Of course, if you know you are turning your attention to other matters for a while, you can activate the sleep mode yourself.
Choose a graphic card with not more capacity than you need. If your work is with documents and spreadsheets, a simple passively cooled graphics chip on your mainboard is plenty. If your graphics card needs its own processor, let's hope you are using this advanced capacity as a tool to design particularly sustainable concepts so you can make up for the energy use: see the first point on processors as energy pigs.