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Home computing is a growing area of household energy use. With the number of computers used in Australia expected to reach 46 million by 2020 energy usage is also on the increase.

Before you buy, consider whether you really need a new computer. Perhaps you can upgrade your existing equipment?

Laptop

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Consider purchasing a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops and notebooks require fewer materials to manufacture and come with mobile processors designed to use less energy, meaning they can be battery-operated for longer periods.

Look for computer monitors that have an Energy Rating Label, the more stars the more efficient the monitor. You can also look for computers and peripherals that display the voluntary ENERGY STAR® mark. This can also help you identify energy-efficient products.

Use your computer efficiently

If left on 24 hours a day, computers and monitors can significantly add to your power bills. If you'd like to reduce energy consumption and costs, try these suggestions to help you get the most out of your power saving options.

  • Set your monitor to switch off after 20 minutes of inactivity and reduce screen brightness to the lowest setting you're comfortable with.
  • Use black screens instead of active screensavers. Active screensavers use full power and can interfere with power-down features. It's a myth that screensavers are energy savers—they were invented to prevent something called 'burn-in' on the old CRT monitors. They don't save energy.
  • Adjust the power management options. Opt for 'hibernate' instead of 'sleep'. Hibernation shuts the computer down and saves everything in its present state. Modern computers are designed to withstand frequent on-off cycles.
  • Switch off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you're not using them as they draw a substantial amount of power.
  • Unplug any external USB devices (like mice, keyboards, and portable music and flash drives) when not in use. Remove discs from drives when you're not using them.
  • Defragment your hard drive regularly. This'll increase the speed of your hard drive so it won't have to hunt all over the place to access all the pieces it needs to run your applications; placing more demand on power use. Computers have a defragment tool that you can schedule or operate manually.
  • Close any programs you're not using. The more programs and applications you have open at once, the more power you're drawing.
  • Don't let anything get in the way of the cooling vents, making your PC or laptop work harder than it needs to, and in some cases lead to system failure. Excess heat from PCs and appliances can also add to your cooling bill. If your laptop is prone to overheating, consider a cooling (chill) pad. You can choose from the increasing range of 'active' pads that have multiple fans and connect via USB to your laptop, cooling the laptop simply by circulating air under the base. 'Passive' pads made from materials that are thermally conducting. If you use the laptop on your lap or pillow, choose a design where the fans won't be obstructed.
  • Put the laptop AC adapter (charger) on a power board that can be switched off (or turn off automatically). The AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
  • Look online for instructions on how to shut off any unwanted programs running in the background or on start-up. This'll save energy and improve system performance.

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