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Save some energy over the holidays

Here's a suggestion for everyone to save energy over the holidays (and at other times!): turn off your computer and monitor or put them into "sleep" mode when you're not using them.

Why? The typical desktop PC uses 100-200 watts even when it's idle. That's the equivalent of 1-2 bright incandescent (read: inefficient) light bulbs. (Note: new PCs that comply with the latest Energy Star specifications consume less than 50-60 watts when idle.)

You wouldn't leave your car running for hours when it's just sitting there. Most of us wouldn't leave a bright light bulb burning for hours when no one is nearby to need the light. So why leave your computer on?

If you're leaving your office for the holidays, turn off your PC. If it consumes 100 watts, that will save 2.4 kWh/day, or over 25 kWh for the next 11 days through January 1st. In California, that will stop about 40 kg of CO2 from being put into the air, and save about $2.50. For every 1 million people who do this, that will stop 40,000 tonnes (metric tons) of CO2 from being emitted, and save $2.5 million. In many areas, it will reduce emissions even further, and save even more money.

The same issue applies at home: turn off your computer or put it to sleep when you're not using it. The automatic power management settings on most computers will put them to sleep automatically after a specified idle period.

If you use a screensaver, set it to "blank" the screen and put the monitor in sleep mode after a few minutes. Screensavers don't have any benefit (other than being nice to look at) on modern displays, and they consume as much or more energy as just about anything else you could ask your computer to do.

You might be thinking, "why now?" This isn't just an issue for the holidays, but this is a good time to remind people. In general, when you're not using your computer, turn it off or put it to sleep. Most computers can go to sleep quickly, and then wake up with all your work exactly as it was when you put it to sleep -- so there's no downside.

If you want to do even more to save energy with your computers and to help the entire IT industry move to higher energy efficiency, check out the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which we co-founded last June to create a positive "virtuous circle" between the supply of and demand for energy-efficient computers. More than 140 companies, universities, governments, and nonprofits, along with thousands of individuals, have pledged to buy energy-efficient computers and to use automatic power management tools to save energy. As more people make the same commitments, the volume of energy-efficient computers sold will increase, and the very modest price premium they demand today should drop.

Have a great holiday season!

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