Minimizing electric bills from computing.


OSNN Veteran Addict
People are starting to notice their electric bills going up as they get more and higher performance computer hardware. I looked at the numbers for a heavily used gaming system and came up with the following estimates for each PC based on average USA electric rates:

Performance system (2 Gig CPU, 1 gig RAM, 2 HD, 2 Optical drives, extra cooling, video card) w/17 inch CRT
$10/month for in use 6 hours per day. Add $5/month for added summer airconditioning load.

Internet terminal (1 Gig CPU, 256meg RAM, 1 HD, 1 Optical drives, on board video) w/17 inch CRT
$7/month for in use 6 hours per day. Add $3/month for added summer airconditioning load.

$5/month for in use 6 hours per day. Add $2/month for added summer airconditioning load.

With multiple PCs running this cost can be a substantial. It actually did show up noticably on my electric bills which was what got me started looking into the problem. My Fall/Spring electric jumped from $75 to $90.

Enabling Energy Saver Options
The good news is that all machines now have energy management in them. All you have to do is enable it in bios and turn it on in Windows. There are multiple levels of reduced power for when you aren't actively using the machine. Different MB and processors allow different levels of power down. Some examples

Turn off the screen savers! - those pretty pictures keep the entire PC active at full power.
set screen saver to blank the display, not show pictures.

Monitor - blank, heater off, full shutdown.
set to blank in 3 minutes, it turns off vertical and acts as a screen saver. Instant on again.
set for CRT heater off in 10-15 minutes
Full power down in 1 hour. May require cycling the power switch to get it back.

Hard Disk - The HD can be set to spin down.
I set mine for 15 minutes.

Optical Disks - all the new ones automatically spin down when not in use.

Hibernate - deep sleep mode for PC, may have trouble coming out of it. Worst case is you restart.

Reduce clock Speed - P4 option mainly.
The CPU clock can be slowed down by software

Save everything to disk and shut down
I'm too chicken to trust this. Let me know if it works without data corruption...

More options:
Turn off the things you don't need all the time.
My scanner and printer only get powered on when I need to use them. The rest of the time they are hard off.

Unplug USB web cams, card readers etc when not in use. They draw power from the USB ports.

Modems and routers can be finicky to link back up after a power cycle but if you're going to be asleep or gone 18 hours a day you should consider turning them off, or putting them on a timer so they restart 15 minutes before you get up, get home etc.

Switch your background lighting from incandescent to flourescent. The new screw base flourescents work well adn use about 1/15 the electricity and the prices are coming down.

Designing a system for low electricity usage:
Bigger and faster means more electricity. When specifying or building a PC be reasonable.

You don't need 1 gig ram for an internet terminal and probably not for most other applications.

Not every PC in the house has to be a 3 gig gaming system. Duron/Celeron is ok for surfing.

Don't get a 450W power supply "cause" the gaming guys said "you gotta have one man". Compare a 450W PS to a V8 and a 300w to a 4 cylinder engine. That V8's guzzling gas to feed those cylinders even when your idling at a stop light, the same applies to the bigger power supply. Bias power is higher and switching losses go up when it's active. A smaller power supply is good enough if the 5V (28A) and 3.3V (18A) current ratings are high enough. tomshardware just built 6 microatx systems with 3 gig processors and 9800 Pro video and the power supplies were a 200-250W.

Don't run raid arrays unless you're running a server and need the speed or reliability. they double or quadruple your HD power consumption.

Replace two smaller HD with 1 big one. It will use half the power. HD power consumption is not going up much with capacity and in many cases is going down.

One 512 meg DIMM uses less power than 2- 256 meg. This is not an option with dual DDR systems but consider it for single channel ddr.

Replace the really old stuff. Newer HD, optical drives etc, spin down when not in use. I had a second hard drive that actually went into spin down when I wasn't accessing data off of it.

Watch the power ratings when buying new equipment. Especially monitors, some brands are power pigs. Motorola used to be especially bad. I'd dry my shoes on top of the one at work during rainy weather.

LCD's use less than half the power of CRTs and can go to 5w standby without worrying about heat up time at restart. With a $200 price difference between LCD and CRT you'll never recover your capital outlay with energy savings but electric usage is an added plus on the LCDs.

This isn't just a home use issue either. Colleges are spending millions to rewire dorms to handle all the electronic gadgets considered essential by the new generation of college students.

Other causes for bills going up
All the portable equipment is adding up too. Cell phone charges, mp3/cd player chargers,

Dual use - ever have the TV and/or stereo on while surfing? You just tripled your electric usage. Play the music on the PC. Consider a tv tuner card for the PC (<$50).

Things to avoid
PC makers are really pushing PC appliances now. They're packing full use pc's into little cases so you can have one to digitize your shows instead of a vcr, etc. This approach wastes power. A PC uses 2-4 times the power a typical consumer product uses.
Ive been searching for many different ways to keep the electricity bill as low as possible and i have 3 computers running in my house :confused:. One being on 24/7 and the rest pretty much about 10hours a day

I do however, (every little helps).. i turn off the mircowave when not in use and i do not leave a single TV in the house on standby.. if its off, its off!. :)

Also, When i leave my desktop, i always turn my monitor off completely and turn it back on again (a simple thing to do to save money) :).

Also, i turn off plugs that i dont need, one consisting mobile charger, TV, PS2. I also always turn off all lights in the room which im not attending in. :)

I also used to have dual screen monitors but then reverted back to a single screen monitor and bought a new one which can support a larger screen resolution (so i can still have a large space)

Thats all i can think of from what i do at the moment. Perhaps these things i mentioned may help other people give more ideas to help save money :)

Alex :cool:

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