How to “Green Up” Your Devices

Whether you’re looking to feel a little less guilty about poking at Mother Nature or you want to cut down on your electric bill (or both), it’s probably a good first step to green up the devices in your home that you have the most direct control of. You don’t even have to sacrifice a lot to get your devices into the green spirit. I’ll show you how you can do this and make it work in a way that will not demand a complete change of lifestyle!

greendevice-compmouse

The personal computer is the pinnacle of muscle power, but it also hemorrhages your wallet. The average computer uses anywhere from 65 to 250 watts per hour of continuous power. Its usage gets lower as you stress its components less. You can use this to your advantage. Here are some pieces of advice I have prepared for you to green up your PC:

1. Turn off your speakers when you’re not using them. One day I noticed that everything I put on my subwoofer got warm. This indicates that even while I don’t listen to music, there is electrical resistance going on in the hardware (hence the heat). If you’ve got a 5W set of cheap speakers, you might not make much of a difference, but if you have a 200W surround sound system with five satellite speakers, you’d end up saving enough money to buy yourself a new set every year by turning them off when you’re not listening to anything. There are exceptions where your system might automatically switch off until it is needed, but you’ll have to read your instruction manual for that, and there’s no chance you will have this feature if you use analog sound output.

2. Let’s state the obvious: Switch your PC and monitors off when you’re not using them. Set up both so that they go to sleep after a certain amount of idle time.

3. Game less. Gaming causes your graphics card’s GPU to fire up and suck more juice from your power supply. This may require as much as 400 watts of extra power, especially if you’re bridging multiple cards together. Instead of gaming, do something more productive!

4. Use your laptop when you can. The CPU and components on a laptop are made to squeeze out as little battery power as possible. Its design is an advantage when you’re trying to save electricity.

5. Pay attention to your hardware purchases, particularly those of the CPU and graphics card. Without sacrificing too much in terms of performance, watch for CPUs and GPUs that consume less electricity. In their spec sheets, there should be a category there for idle and maximum power consumption. Base your decision on both, then throw performance into the equation and compare what you must.

6. Need to browse the web for the latest scoop on some celebrity? Whip out the tablet or your smartphone. Those use up much less electricity to perform this task than the monstrous desktop PC in your study. Plus, you can walk around with your tablet or smartphone looking all stylish!

greendevice-smartphone

The average smartphone uses around six to eight watts of continuous power per hour. Your average tablet doesn’t use much more than this. So, you can’t expect massive savings from greening these devices up. In a dollars-and-cents analysis, a smartphone will cost you under a dollar per year to keep charging. The one reason why you would want to minimize power consumption is to get as much life out of your battery as you can. These devices guzzle down battery power in one or two days (tablets may even last as little as ten hours). Given these distressing numbers, let’s see how you can get the most out of one charging cycle:

1. Hang up the phone. Cut down on conversations and save the small talk for a personal meeting. If you don’t feel like doing this, fine. It’s not like the earth will blow up if you don’t follow this advice. Some people just need to get their talk on. It’s good for you, anyway!

2. Turn your phone off before you go to bed at night. Keeping the phone on 24/7 is something we’ve been used to since the Nokia 3310 days. But phones have changed phenomenally and battery life suffers as a result of it. Who wants to answer the phone in the middle of the night anyway? If you’ve got a land line and you don’t have emergencies to attend to at night (such as getting called into the hospital to look after patients) then people can still reach you and you can have a sound sleep. Do this also for your tablet.

3. Turn Wi-Fi off when you go out. Your phone or tablet keeps a list of public Wi-Fi networks that are in your area and is constantly looking for them even if you aren’t telling it to. If you connect to one of them automatically and the signal is poor, your phone will struggle to broadcast its information to the access point. This will drain your battery badly.

Have you got any other advice for your fellow readers? Let us know what you think we should do to save on energy usage in a comment below!

8 comments

    • Most computers, once you shut them down, are shut down entirely. The process of turning on a computer involves shorting a couple of pins on your motherboard that completes a circuit. Without that circuit completion, your computer is drawing as much power as a pillowcase.

      Your laptop, on the other hand, polls the battery once in awhile. This consumes a grand total of less than 0.5 watts, for less than one second. Phones, once fully charged to about 4200 mV of battery voltage, will cut off any power coming from the charger.

      What does constantly use power is the digital display on your microwave, the LED of your television set, the blinking (or continuous) LED indicator showing your monitor is on standby, and any other “standby” indicators running in your home. The grand total of having 20 of these devices on standby is roughly 2-5 watts, which is (at its worst) drawing 1/8th the power of a conventional 40w lightbulb.

      The investment on a cutter-offer-device-thing will actually cost you more than keeping these devices the way they are for a few decades.

      However, there is a caveat: Putting your computer to “sleep” (not “hybernate”) will make the computer continuously power your RAM (about 15 watts per stick) even while it’s off. That’s just one example of a couple of things that could consume power when switched off. Most modern devices in the home, however (like smart TVs and what not), have ways of powering on instantly without consuming electricity while off.

    • Yes, but if you theoretically left the device on for an hour, it would consume that many watt-hours in that hour. The same amount of energy would power a device that uses half that amount of energy in two hours.

      No power consumption, however, is instant. You use devices for a certain amount of time. The amount of watt-hours consumed will always vary depending on the time you took to use that device. However, the amount of watts per hour (or, better said, watt-hours per hour) will be constant on the device, whether you left it on for 10 hours or 0.0023 seconds.

  1. I use a little program called WakeUpOnStandby. My desktop supports hibernation which is even more efficient than sleep and that program wakes it up with a timer so my tower is not powered up at night.

  2. Upgrading your power supply to an 80 plus or 80 plus bronze certification will reduce the heat out of your tower and lower the power it consumes. You can get a 450 watt one for about $30 all day long.

  3. I just leave all my stuff on all the time. If my machines turn off then how am I supposed to access them from work. How am I supposed to be able to stream from my Plex server at all hours of the night. A well built computer hardly uses a lot of power. It’s the fridge and Xbox that uses most the power in my house.

    • A well-built computer will consume roughly 65-250 Watts of idle nominal power. That’s still something. Anyway, no one is forcing you to follow this advice (unless your country has a green party in power, which in that case, I wish you my condolences). I’m just saying, “Do whatever is in your possibility to save money, if you want to”. :)

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