Green IT: The importance of choosing energy efficient computers

This month saw the publication of Greenpeace’s 18th edition of the ‘Guide to greener electronics’, highlighting the impact of consumer electronics good on the environment. Recent rises in energy prices have led many computer users to think more carefully about the amount of energy they use to run their computers and what they can do to reduce it.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, household computers, monitors, printers and laptops make up an average of 13% of the electricity used around the house. This is the reason why choosing an efficient computer can not only have an impact on carbon dioxide emissions but also make savings on energy costs.


How to save energy when using your laptop or computer?

Energy-saving tips for your computer or laptop:Ecobutton

1. Computers use a similar amount of energy whether they are idle or busy so turning them onto sleep mode is a very good energy saving action.

2.  Computers have power-saving settings, found in their preferences. These have two options of sleeping or hibernation modes, which will turn off the screen or monitor off within a specified number of minutes of idleness.

3. Switching computers, printers and scanners overnight also helps save energy.


Laptops are more energy efficient than desktops

Laptops have become the more energy efficient choice when it comes to buying a computer. With smaller components, and their LCD or LED screens which are more economical than the old-style tube or CRT monitors, laptops use much less energy than PC computers and their monitors.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, laptops use 85% less electricity a year than desktops, saving around £30 a year on the energy bill. With the technology advances made on newer laptops and their ability to switch on and off quickly and making it less tempting to just leave a PC on unnecessarily, it makes sense to stick to laptops if the user’s needs are met, saving an average of £58 over the laptop’s lifetime.


Most energy efficient desktops

If a user prefers to use a desktop, there are a number of desktop PCs recommended, allowing a reduction of energy when on sleep and stand-by mode as well as when the computer is running.

According to the figures published by Sust-IT in its list of 25 desktop computers by annual costs, the Apple Mac Mini is the most energy efficient, using 33.70 kWh/year – 1.03W when in sleep mode, 9.2W when idle and 0.21W when off -, costing its user an average of £0.02 a day and £4.82 a year.  In addition, its carbon dioxide emissions equal to 18.25 kgCO2 a year.

On the opposite end of the list, in the position of the least energy efficient computer, another Apple desktop: the Apple Mac Pro (MC561) 2.4GHz. With a power consumption of 480.81kWh/year, this desktop costs £68.76 to run every year with total carbon dioxide emissions of 260.41 kgCO2.


Energy efficient computer power supplies

Technology companies are working hard at improving the energy efficiency of computer power supplies so that they can use less electricity to power the same computer and emit less waste heat. This is supported by the 80 PLUS certification, a financial incentive given to power supply manufactures producing 80% and more efficiency when running. The energy efficiency of a power supply is based on how much electricity is delivered to the computer. This is calculated by dividing its output power by its input power with the remaining power converted into wasted heat.

The reduction of heat output also increases the lifespan of a computer, which doesn’t need its fans to spin as fast to cool the system and experiences less overheating – creating a number of issues including motherboard and graphics card failures on laptops for example. It also reduces the noise level produced by the fans.


Technology gadgets than can help make computer more energy efficient

A number of online retailers sell devices that can help make computer more eco-friendly. The Computer Ecobutton is an USB device allowing the user to simply press a button and put a desktop computer and its monitor into the most economical sleep mode available, saving electricity and reducing CO2 emissions when taking a call, going for a meeting or having a break.  The device works on any PC running Windows 7, 2000, XP and Vista, including laptops and PCs with wireless keyboards, but not Apple Macs yet – and only cost £12.95.

Another gadget for laptops is the USB Solar Gorilla laptop charger, a fold-up and compact solar operated charger. Its panels produce 10W in direct sunlight which is powerful enough to charge a laptop or a notebook. This device works with Mac and PC.

Creative IT is specialised in computer technical support. For advice on energy efficient computer or green computing, call 020 7237 6805 or email


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