What's New in Technology for October 2008

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Technology: Green Computing

Thinking about saving energy and money around the office? There are several simple choices we all can make to cut energy costs—moves that reduce costs with minimum inconvenience.

Most of us don’t turn off our computers and peripherals when we’re not using them. Switching them off won’t harm them or impede your productivity. The average PC system (the “box”, a 15-inch monitor and a printer) requires a total of about 150-200 watts of electrical power. Using a basic system for about 40 hours a week, energy costs are about $40.00 per year at current rates. Perhaps it doesn’t sound like a huge total, but multiply this by the number of computers you have at work and at home (and don’t forget to add the extra costs for the air conditioning needed to offset the heat generated by each system), and you can see how it all begins to add up. Energy costs increase with larger monitors. Laser printers are energy guzzlers (compared to ink jet printers) when they are in the printing cycle.

Here are some simple ways to support green computing:

    1. Screen savers waste energy. If images appear on your screen for more than 5 minutes, you are wasting power. Screen savers may protect the phosphors in the monitor screen (this is no longer a real concern with newer models), but they require your system to operate at full power even when the system is idle. They interact with your CPU and consume energy. You can change the settings for your screen saver by finding the function that allows you to personalize your screen saver selections. Set a time-out period that makes sense for you –you don’t want it so short that the display repeatedly turns itself on and off. When you leave for the night or for a few days, turn the display off completely.

    1. Make use of the system’s “sleep” mode to shut down key operating areas during idle times. Most operating systems allow you to personalize and select a time-out period by finding the “screen saver” or “energy saver” options in the drop-down properties menu. Pick a time period that makes sense for you. As a rule of thumb, the recommended settings are 20 minutes for monitor sleep and 30 minutes for system sleep. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that systems using “sleep” modes require 60-70 percent less energy than those without this function. Contrary to popular belief, computers can be switched on and off without damaging the equipment’s “life expectancy”. Modern drives are designed to operate effectively for thousands of on/off cycles. When you leave for the night or for a trip, don’t forget to shut the system down entirely.

  1. Turn off non-networking peripherals when not in use. Most of us use printers, USB hard drives and other peripherals only part of the time we’re using our PC. Keeping them on constantly is a waste of energy. Make it a habit to switch them on only when you need them. Powering back up should take just a few moments.

Finally don’t forget that responsible recycling plays an important role in green computing. Donate old systems to budget-conscious charities and non-profits. Some major manufacturers, including Dell and HP, have recycling programs. Check with them to find out about suitable programs and any fees involved.


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