Your Next Computer Can Be Energy Efficient

The back to school season is a once of the most popular times for computer purchases and plenty of guidelines can help you buy the most energy efficient computer possible. More than $1.8 billion in energy costs could be saved annually if all computers were ENERGY STAR qualified, reducing the greenhouse gas emission equivalent of 2 million vehicles.
 A new program, the Green Electronics Council's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) evaluates computers based on 51 environmental criteria. EPEAT rates computers as Gold, Silver or Bronze based on how well they meet the test criteria. An example of the criteria is displays - some computer LED displays contain mercury, but an EPEAT gold-rated laptop has a mercury-free LED backlit display. As of May of this year 885 laptops met the EPEAT Gold Standard
The EPEAT website offers a registry where you can look up the energy efficiency of a manufacturer's products, or enter a particular model number. Testing the registry search, I learned that the laptop I am writing this post on is rated Bronze, Energy Star version 5.0. Could be better, could be worse. To check your computer click "Search the Registry" on EPEAT's home page.
ENERGY STAR estimates that the cost savings of using power management settings on new computers as compared to old computers where the settings where not used is $216 over 4 years at $.11 per KwH. Computers qualified as ENERGY STAR 5.0 have tight total annual energy consumption. They must have efficient internal or external power supplies in off, idle and sleep modes. ENERGY STAR power management features send the computer into a low-powered sleep mode after an inactive period, awakening with the touch of a key.
A Computer Power Management Savings Calculator spreadsheet is available at the ENERGY STAR website where you can enter your state, number of computers, LCD monitors, desktops and notebooks used, your computer’s sleep, hibernate, or shut down mode patterns and the percentage of computers turned off at night and during weekends, holidays and vacations. Entering some sample numbers into the form I learned that my ENERGY STAR 5.0 laptop is saving 200 lbs. of carbon emissions in three years.
Power management features are often considered a requirement for desktops. But laptops draw 20-30 watts of power, less than desktops but still a considerable amount. Using system standby and sleep power management features reduces the laptop’s power drain to 1-2 watts in one of the standby modes. The features should be enabled for both AC power when plugged into the wall and DC power when running on battery power. If you must keep your computer on 24/7 for remote access, keep the power management on your monitor only, as waking from sleep or hibernate may not be possible with a remote connection.
ENERGY STAR offers up-to-date lists  of recommended computers models, in a series of spreadsheets and .pdfs available for download listing qualified desktops and integrated computers, workstation computers, thin clients, notebooks, and small scale servers. The spreadsheet provides product identifying information and then a series of Total Energy Consumption measures and sleep mode characteristics. These figures are best for comparing the characteristics of several models.
A computer can be one of the most energy efficient tools in your home.  It is possible to have the most modern technology without wasting power.  That is part of the message of Energy Efficiency – that you can enjoy modern conveniences and save energy at the same time. As ENERGY STAR and EPEAT computer recommendations gain favor the day of truly energy efficient computing is near. If you can find one of the few wind-powered Internet Service providers or use a home-generated solar power set-up your computing will be on the forefront of energy efficiency .

You'll like the energy efficient products available now and coming soon at Greenbespoke - $50 coupon available through midnight Sunday

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I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome