Reduce Your PC's Power and Operating Costs

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Windows Power Tweaks

You don't have to wait for Vista's sleep mode to kick in; save energy by activating it manually via this option on the Start menu.
You don't have to wait for Vista's sleep mode to kick in; save energy by activating it manually via this option on the Start menu.
I set Windows to enter standby after 30 minutes or an hour, which strikes a balance for me between too often and not often enough. I also recommend that you open the Power Options Control Panel applet to configure the power button on your system to invoke standby or sleep mode rather than to turn the PC off. In XP, choose the Advanced tab, and under 'When I press the power button on my computer', select Stand by. In Vista, click Change when the computer sleeps or Change plan settings. In the Edit Plan Settings dialog box, choose the idle time before turning your monitor off and putting the computer to sleep. Next, select Change advanced power settings, click the plus sign next to 'Power button and lid', choose the plus sign next to 'Power button action', click the current option to make the drop-down menu appear, and select Sleep on that menu.

You can also invoke Windows' sleep mode manually: In Windows XP, click Start, Turn Off Computer, Stand By. In Vista, click the Start button, choose the right arrow in the bottom-right corner of the Start menu, and select Sleep. (Note that Vista may have standby selected by default.) To resume, press the power button or any key on the keyboard, or simply move your mouse.

Save a Little, Save a Lot

How much money can these changes save you? That depends on what you pay per watt for electricity, multiplied by the number of watts consumed when the system is inactive. According to the United States Energy Information Administration's June 2007 Electric Power Monthly report (go to the link for the most recent report), the average price of electricity to residential customers for the year ending in March 2007 was 10.47 cents per kilowatt-hour. If your PC is powered on continuously but runs actively only 10 hours a day, five days a week, and it uses a 3D screen saver during periods of inactivity, it will be in use 2600 hours each year, and will consume 250 watts on average. This drops to 225 watts during the 6160 hours of the year it is powered on but inactive. Running this system for a year would cost $213.17, but an energy diet brings its annual power costs down to just $73.86, representing a savings of nearly $140 (see the chart below).

Of course, your mileage will vary, but the savings are significantly greater for power-hungry high-end systems. Simply switching from S1 Suspend to S3 offers virtually the same savings as you would realize from manually turning the machine off when it's not in use.

How Much Will You Save?

Reduce your electric bill--and your PC's environmental impact--by setting Windows to standby or hibernate. Click the icon below to see our chart showing the approximate amount of money saved by different PC states.

How Much Will You Save?
Reduce your electric bill--and your PC's environmental impact--by setting Windows to standby or hibernate.
PC CONDITION Annual cost Savings
3D screen saver while inactive $213.17 $0.00
S1 Standby while inactive $155.12 $58.05
S3 Standby while inactive $74.50 $138.67
Off or Hibernate while inactive $73.86 $139.31
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