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Question of the Week: When it comes to computers, do you minimize energy use?

2008 August 25

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It’s time to go back to school, so many Americans are replacing their computers. You can look for the Energy Star label to find one that uses less electricity. When you get your computer home, you can choose energy-saving settings like when to turn off the monitor.

When it comes to computers, do you minimize energy use?
(leave a comment | en español)

[poll id=”7″]


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Ha llegado el regreso al colegio y muchos estadounidenses están reemplazando sus computadoras. Busque la etiqueta Energy Star para encontrar una que use menos electricidad. En casa, puede seleccionar opciones para ahorrar energía como apagar el monitor.

¿Cuando se trata de computadoras, cómo minimiza el uso de energía?

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65 Responses leave one →
  1. Marjean permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Setting the energy saver on any new computer is always the first thing I do. Computers should be sold or set up with the energy saver stuff already set to ON, so users don’t even have to think about it. The computer support people where I work aren’t very active about promoting energy saver settings. How much brain does it take?

  2. Utah Chris permalink
    August 25, 2008


    I leave my 3 pc’s to hybernate in 10 minutes without any activity. That is both a no brainer for power consumption and helps extend the life of the pc.

  3. Stephanie permalink
    August 25, 2008

    At work, I always turn off my monitor and undock my computer when I leave for the day. Our IT department has our computer setting set to sleep when we are away from our desk.

    At home, I keep my computer unplugged unless I am using it and the energy saving settings at set for when it is in use.

  4. Wendy permalink
    August 25, 2008

    While I do manage our computer’s energy use at home – by using the power management settings and by turning off all home office equipment from the power strip every evening, I’ve found that the power management settings on the computer itself can be confusing and a little intimidating. Choosing between terms like ‘idle,’ ‘hibernate,’ ‘standby,’ etc. is difficult as it’s not clear what each term means and how it will affect my interaction with my computer.

    Additionally, I’d like to be able to put my computer into a ‘sleep’ or ‘break’ mode when I walk away from it vs. wait passively for it to power down after 15 minutes of inactivity. Apparently, you can do this on some or all computers but it’s unclear how, and I suspect most people won’t do it for fear of losing information or having the entire computer shut down. We always turn our lights off when leaving a room, so it’s counter-intuitive to walk away from our computer while it’s still on, even if it will eventually power down.

  5. Becky permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I shut off my speakers and monitor when not in use, at work and at home.

    At work we are not allowed to shut off the computers because our computer technicians run all updates and security during off hours.

  6. Pat permalink
    August 25, 2008

    The computer automatically goes to “sleep” after a period of inactivity.

  7. Ashley permalink
    August 25, 2008

    At home I only have my computer on when I am using it, and make sure to turn it off when I’m not at home and when I’m asleep. At work we are told to turn our computers off over the weekend, but to keep them on during the week for after-hours security updates. I have no idea how to change my computers’ energy settings, which upsets me because I like to be energy aware. Can you provide us with information?

  8. Dan permalink
    August 25, 2008

    All but one PC is turned fully off. The one that is left running for any extended time is used as a DVR. My understanding is it won’t pull it from sleep or hibernate to record the shows so most of the power saving options is disabled. As shows become available “on demand” from the network web sites we remove them from the DRV list and power the PC down more often.

  9. Rocky permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Yes,I do turn off my computer when not in use,it may take a little
    longer to turn on, but whats the hurry. We should all be calm and

  10. Shannon permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Yes! We have 5 computers in our house – 4 laptops and 1 desktop, the laptops have monitors, etc. All are set to power save after 15 minutes of non use. At night we turn off power strips and unplug them.

    At work, we do the same each evening before we leave. We have “electric” monitors at our office, so everything is not only turned off, it is unplugged!

  11. JoAnn M permalink
    August 25, 2008

    You can probably find out how if you go to the Web site of your computer maker (Dell? Apple?) and search on obvious keywords like energy saver settings. Or on your computer, just right-click (assuming it’s a PC) on the main screen and go into the screen saver – that’s usually where the energy saver settings are. Just read the items on screen… you’ll find them, it’s really quite easy! If I could do it, hon, anyone can!

  12. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Yes, I reduce my energy use in several ways. For one, I only buy laptops in my own home. This automatically reduces energy used in half at least. For two, I always set the laptops to the lowest energy setting they can be at with a quick sleep timer, that way it not only increases battery time, but, in effect, it also reduces energy use.

    For three, I have a printer that has a sleep timer on it, so when I forget to unplug it myself, it puts itself in sleep mode until I need to use it after 2 minutes.

    For four, at work when I have to use computers that are attached to the wall (desktop PCs) I will turn the setting down so that it goes on energy saving power and goes into standby with no activity after 15 minutes and shuts down after 45 minutes.

    Just a few more ways to be more energy efficient :)

  13. Lina-EPA permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Yep! I turn the computers off at home and at work. However, some of my daughter’s laptops seem to be on 24/7–even the 6 year old. Just kidding.
    Should go the extra mile to turn off the other DVD and electronic equipment. Haven’t connected everyting to power supplies. Kind of lazy.

  14. Derrick permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I have changed to a laptop in my office. When I am finnished for the day
    I shut it down rather than using the sleep function. I have also adjusted the energy saving menu to fit my needs.

  15. Sharon permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I think the monitors are the biggest pigs on power usage, but I use my laptop computer. I use the dinosaur tech computer for surfing the net, and letting the grand-daughter play.

  16. claire permalink
    August 25, 2008

    i only have one computer and i make sure that whenever im not using it i turn it off and when im out or sleeping i turn it off by the plug like every other elecrtrical appliance in my home.
    its to save eneergy and for safety.

  17. Alex permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I do use the energy saver settings. Also, (especially, though not only, when my laptop is not plugged in) I dim the monitor and shut off the wifi & Bluetooth when not using them. It allows me to use the computer longer unplugged and save energy as well.

  18. Grumpaw John permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I have walked the halls of my office for years at the end of the day, turning off monitors, and in some cases computers. My work makes requests / reminders from time to time about turning off computers at the end of the day, but it’s far from a priority for them. The sad thing – I work at EPA!

  19. Grumpaw John permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I leave my home computer on most of the time. We use it from time to time throughout the day, and I get weather alerts and such through it.

    You know what, I’d be more likely to turn it off if it didn’t take 2-3 minutes to boot up from power on. Why doesn’t EPA go after the software companies to give us alternatives to standby – which is not reliable enough for me to trust. How about “power up from flash drive”? as an option. Image memory to a 2-4GB flash drive and start up from it. Should reduce startup time such that it’s rational to power computer on and off – maybe 20 seconds, max.

  20. Trotter permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I have a Vista Home Premium (32bit) computer that I have as a DVR. I can put it in sleep mode and it will “wakeup” to record shows. If you have Vista, give it a try on a show you really don’t care about and see if it wakes up.

  21. Trotter permalink
    August 25, 2008

    Why unplug it if you’ve turned off at the powerstrip?

  22. Trotter permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I’ve tried to put my computer into sleep mode at work but when it wakes up it seems to loose it’s connections to the network and e-mail server which then requires it to be restarted. I need to get the IT department to see if there is a fix for this…

  23. Jimmy Overdrive permalink
    August 25, 2008

    EPA can suggest that companies make a change, but doesn’t have the legal ability to “go after” the companies for this particular item (and where’s the Department of Energy, hello??). No more than EPA can “go after” homeowners and force them to recycle bottles… Americans generally have a short fuse regarding jackbooted thugs from Washington telling them what to do. Even if it’s the right thing to do.

  24. Julie permalink
    August 25, 2008

    My computer and Monitor at home is only on if there is someone using it. At work, the policy is to turn off your computer and monitor at the end of the day.

  25. Paul permalink
    August 25, 2008

    I set the power options to sleep the monitor and any hard disks that are not in use, but I keep the CPUs busy 24×7 running work units for the Folding @ Home research project at Stanford University , basically volunteering my home computer as one node in a massively parallel supercomputer. Least I can do to help find cures for some rather nasty diseases. Most programs I use run plenty fast while Folding @ Home runs in the background, so I can make full use of the electricity my computer uses while I’m surfing the web or writing email.

  26. Nick Lawrence permalink
    August 26, 2008

    I always turn off the computer when it will not be used. At our office we have a time out for the computers set for 10 minutes of inactivity; annoying but is saves energy and is a good security measure. My monitor at home will shut down after 5 minutes of inactivity. We need to find a way to shut down the cable box when not in use. Even though it is turned off, it still continues to make all kinds of sounds. It has to be using energy.

  27. Alison permalink
    August 26, 2008

    Yes, it is just as easy to remeber to shut off the monitor as I leave the room as it is to turn off the light switch. My dad taught me to do that back in the day. I also put my computer system, my television/digital converter/special amplified antenna system, and my surround sound stereo system on power strips, so those can be turned off completely to save power. Yes, I do have to re enter some settings when I turn them back on, but that is only a few buttons to push. The savings in energy is reflected on my monthly power bill, and that makes me smile.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    August 26, 2008

    Home computer is on energy-save mode. I unplug my work computer every afternoon.

  29. carolina miramontes muñoz, mexico permalink
    August 26, 2008


  30. carolina miramontes muñoz, mexico permalink
    August 26, 2008


  31. Shawn permalink
    August 26, 2008

    When you are ready to walk away from your computer, just set it to sleep or standby. Both are the same thing. Just depends on what windows version you are using. That is what I do when I am done with my computer at home. The standby/sleep mode just turns off the monitor and hard drive. When you return to your computer just move the mouse around and your computer will turn back on. *Standby/sleep also saves your computer from the ware of cold starts.*

  32. Emma permalink
    August 26, 2008

    Only on my home laptop though! Not too sure about my work computer, though I log off every night and turn off every weekend…

  33. Maria permalink
    August 26, 2008

    flip the swith on the pluge after saving your stuff. it makes it work alot easier, and it saves energy

  34. Jim permalink
    August 26, 2008

    I put my computers into “Sleep” mode but one kept waking itself back up. Turned out the computer came with a “wake on internet” mode turned on in the boot “Setup.” Turned it off, and the computer nows works better. However, in general I have been less than impressed in terms of how well Microsoft’s various “Energy Savings” modes actually work. I set them up, they seem to work for a couple months, and then things stop working again. Sleep means Sleep dang it!

  35. Cajundweeb permalink
    August 26, 2008

    When I’m not using the computer, I simply shut the whole system down and turn off the power strip into which it is plugged. That way we’re REALLY conserving energy!!!

  36. Jerry permalink
    August 26, 2008

    I turn my desktop off at night and my laptop off as soon as I am done using it but plug it in overnight if I used it during the day to recharge the battery.

  37. Dan Snowden permalink
    August 27, 2008

    I simply turn off my computer terminal all the way (no screen saver – the terminal is completely off), so that the only way any energy could be used would be to turn it back on again.

  38. Jorge permalink
    August 27, 2008

    I shut the thing off when I am not using it. It’s called common sense. To bad the EPA won’t rely on people using common sense.

    I guess next we will have a device that notifies the EPA if some one leave their computer on.

  39. prakash permalink
    September 1, 2008

    we switch on the computer the moment when we want to use .frequently switched off the moment when we leave.plan well what to do in computers before use.use lcd moniters instead others.keep sound at below 70db.avoiding unnecessarily put on the connected instruments ie scanner,printer,vidio games…these are the ways how we can save power.

  40. Sally G permalink
    September 2, 2008

    Macs make this really easy. Under the apple on the top left, select “sleep” as you walk away from your computer, unless you know you’ll be away long enough to shut down. Then just hit any key when you return.
    For energy saver settings, again under the apple, go to “system preferences” and, under hardware, select the “energy saver” icon, and use the sliders to make choose the time unused before the monitor/computer goes to sleep. I have the monitor go to sleep after just a few minutes, the computer a bit longer. You can also schedule your computer to start or wake up at a certain time each day.

  41. Sally G permalink
    September 2, 2008

    I have also heard that monitors are the biggest energy users; my monitor sleeps before my computer during nonuse (just a few minutes for the monitor as compared to 10 for the computer). I usually come back from the restroom just in time to see my monitor go to sleep! Otherwise, when I leave the computer, I turn it off.

  42. Sally G permalink
    September 2, 2008

    Is you monitor sleeping, at least? That won’t affect connections.
    Re: EPA “going after” software/hardware manufacturers, the way to do that, IMHO, is through incentives: make requirements for Energy Star computers include simple energy-saver settings that don’t affect use. Apple has a check box for “put computer to sleep when possible”, which I have checked. My online companay does disconnect me after a certain period of nonuse, though.

  43. Sally G permalink
    September 2, 2008

    What can I say? “Get a Mac!” :) (Please take this in a jovial manner; I don’t mean to start a “Mac vs. PC” thread or to criticize in any way.)

  44. Miguel Barraza permalink
    September 2, 2008

    Yes, I try if I could delete messages from a telephone it would help save carbons.In other words by viewing messages and saving a couple to myself.

  45. Jarrod permalink
    September 2, 2008

    My computer is so old (2000) that I’m afraid if I turn it off it won’t come back on. That’s almost happened several times after power outages. So, unfortunately, we keep it running, but leave the big energy-hungry monitor and speakers off. Upgrades are expensive, ya know? Maybe EPA should pony up some tax credits for purchasing energy star products? Or start regulating carbon dioxide to provide that needed incentive to unplug.

  46. Jarrod permalink
    September 2, 2008

    Oh yeah, and I’ve always been told that it prolongs the life of your computer (maybe just the power supply?) if you leave it on all the time. Misinformation?

  47. Ren permalink
    September 2, 2008

    Most families who use the computer either leave it on all the time with out ever turning it off , or they compulsively turn it on and off and on and off.
    If the computer is used several times through out the day by one or several people don’t turn it on and off that is bad for the computer and it takes more energy than leaving it on, but put it on hybernate.
    I’ts as simple as shutting down the computer, if you have windows you click the turn off the comp icon then when the options come up to standby shut down or restart you hold the shift key and the standby button turns into the hybernate button. you don’t need to go by a new computer to reduce energy use, you just need to know the control commands and common sense.
    If you are a person who just leaves it on and never puts it in hybernate or shutdown, the computer gets hot, especially if its in one of those desks with a cabinet and makes the computer erratic and slow ,Like all other machines if it gets too hot, it breaks down like an overheated car.
    if its not contained it makes the room hot and then you will need to turn on the fans or adjust the ac so that makes no sense either. Just think about things in regards to conserving, you don’t need to waste money on a brand new computer to care about environmental issues, you just need to be conscientious.

  48. Ren permalink
    September 2, 2008

    sometimes the EPA comes up with ridiculous ideas bc they don’t know what they are talking about. people who don’t know too much about computers need to learn how to manage them correctly , all pcs can be put in standby and hibernate mode and then maybe so many millions wont be robbed by electronic stores and their “computer genius” crew who barely do anything and there goes 150 bucks. if you aren’t home or using it, you should have already put it in standby if you are downloading or if you don’t need anything in progress hibernate. The internet providers are the ones who do disconnect after inactivity b/c a lot of people leave the internet browsers open in multiple tabs for days when they have left the computer, and apparently the service providers are becoming stingy with bandwidth. its not good to do that for the sake of your own computer any way especially if you don’t know to much and use internet explorer -you allow in too many viruses and pop ups to download themselves on your computer.

  49. Priscilla permalink
    September 3, 2008

    The best way for people to reduce energy use is whenever possible, turn off the computer completely. It is also the way to protect the computer and prolong its life.

  50. Jito permalink
    September 13, 2008

    Lots of good, helpful tips here. Thanks for sharing.


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