Adjusting your computer’s energy consumption will help you save on your power bill and help your laptop last longer between charges. This article will show you how.
- How to Adjust Computer Energy Consumption
- Ditch the screensaver
- Unplug accessories when not in use
- Use PC BIOS functions
- Power-saving usage tips
- Notebooks and laptops vs. desktops
- Upgrade your machine
Computers are an integral part of the modern world, with at least one in most households and office buildings in the United States.
But these machines use an incredible amount of power and energy resources. The average desktop is responsible for as much carbon monoxide production as a car driving 820 miles in one year.
So how can you reduce your computer’s energy when you need to use it daily?
To adjust your computer’s energy consumption, you should dim the brightness and set it to switch to standby mode after ten minutes of inactivity. It would be best if you also disconnected or turn off external devices like printers or speakers when you aren’t using them and shut down your computer after using it.
A few simple adjustments to your settings and how you use your machine can significantly lessen the amount of energy you use.
Most new computers are pre-programmed to use the most efficient settings, but you can adjust them to your workstyle and needs.
This guide will give you tips and tricks to make your computer more energy efficient.
How to Adjust Computer Energy Consumption
The first place to cut down on your computer’s energy consumption is through the settings.
These controls let you choose how bright your screen is, how loud your sound is, and how long it stays on and active when you aren’t using it.
Most computers do not need to be turned on daily, especially for personal or office use.
The best settings are letting it shut down or enter sleep mode when you aren’t using it and reducing the power it needs when it is active.
You can manually adjust your settings or use the pre-installed energy-saver settings.
Your computer needs and energy output might change daily, so knowing how all the adjustments work will help you make energy-saving decisions daily.
Lowering the brightness on your monitor is another simple adjustment that has a big impact.
Keeping the brightness at the lowest comfortable setting will save power and help you avoid eye strain. Even just a few notches down from full brightness will help.
Some models let you set it for laptops so the screen automatically dims when using battery power instead of an adapter.
Otherwise, you can manually adjust the brightness with your keyboard or in the settings menu. The darker the room, the less screen brightness you’ll need.
On a desktop machine, the brightness controls are usually found on the monitor.
You can adjust them as you do for a laptop, using the brightest settings only when in full sunlight.
Consider turning the monitor off to conserve energy even if the CPU is still on or in standby mode.
Standby and Sleep Modes
Many have standby and hibernate modes, sometimes called sleep modes. These are ways to stop using power without shutting down completely.
This lets you return to work quickly after inactivity but gets you the energy benefits of shutting down an idle machine.
Standby, sleep, and hibernate mean slightly different things.
Depending on your computer and operating system, they can mean it’s in an energy-saving mode or effectively turned off.
Hibernation generally means that it will save your work and turn itself off. When you turn it back on, whatever programs you ran before hibernation will relaunch.
Standby mode dramatically cuts down on your computer’s power but doesn’t shut it all the way down.
The screen will usually go to sleep, but the hard drive and other programs will keep running at a lower capacity than during active use.
This lets you restart it more quickly than a hibernation mode.
More recently, operating systems let you specify how you want your computer to save energy. You can decide how long you want various aspects of your machine to stay active.
For example, you can set the screen to go to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity but ask that the hard drive stay active until after 15 minutes.
Accessing Windows power options for PCs
If you’re using a Windows operating system on a PC, you can access your energy-saving settings through the Control Panel.
Depending on which version of Windows you are using, you will see an option for System and Maintenance or Performance and Maintenance, or go straight to Power Options.
You can select Power Options from that menu if you have a maintenance category.
Power Options will let you select how long your computer should be inactive before it shuts systems down.
Newer machines will already have energy-saving settings, but you can adjust them to work better with your work style.
Accessing power save for Macs
You can access your energy settings on Mac under System Preferences. Click the lightbulb icon for Energy Saver.
If you use a laptop, you can change the settings for battery and adapter use.
For a desktop, you will not have that option. You can use this menu to adjust sleep time when the hard drive shuts off, and the screen dims.
You can also use the schedule button to set times for it to wake up and go to sleep.
This is a useful way to ensure that your computer is conserving power even if you forget to turn it off when you’re done manually.
Using a remote desktop is one situation where you won’t turn your computer off when you aren’t using it.
The local desktop you’re connecting to must remain on for you to connect with it.
However, you do not need to leave the monitor of that machine turned on. That will save some energy, even though the CPU will effectively run 24/7.
When you use a remote desktop, ensure you’re conserving energy and reducing your energy consumption to access the desktop.
For example, if you’re using your laptop at home to access the desktop at your office, make sure your laptop conserves as much energy as possible to offset the energy the desktop computer uses.
Ditch the screensaver
In early computers, screensavers kept images from burning into your screen permanently.
Screen technology has come a long way since then, so screensavers are unnecessary now and a huge waste of power.
When your computer is running a screensaver, it cannot put any of its systems to sleep.
The screen and hard drive have to run continuously to display the images. To cut back on your energy consumption, get rid of your screensaver entirely.
In Windows, you can turn off your screensaver by right-clicking the desktop, clicking Properties, and setting Screensaver to None.
Go to System Preferences for Macs, click Desktop and Screensaver, and set Screensaver to Never.
Unplug accessories when not in use
Another simple way to impact your computer’s energy consumption is to turn off and unplug accessories when you aren’t using them.
Items like printers, external speakers, hard drives, and ring lights can drain power even when you aren’t using them.
Turn off and disconnect your accessories whenever possible to stop the phantom drain these devices cause.
A phantom drain is when a device continues to use power when plugged into the wall, even when shut off.
Devices that do this are sometimes known as “energy vampires,” they can use as much power turned off as they do when you’re using them.
To avoid phantom drain, you can unplug every device from the power source as soon as you’re done with it.
Alternatively, smart plugs and power strips can give you the control to shut off each device individually without messing with cords and cables whenever you need to print something.
Bluetooth and WiFi
Bluetooth and WiFi are two other accessories that drain your battery. You can turn them off to save power if you don’t need them.
Even if you aren’t using the internet or Bluetooth, they use power on standby.
Turning them all the way off stops them from using power, and when you need them again, they turn on quickly and easily.
Apps and programs
Any application or program that you run on your computer will use power. Effective audio and video programs tend to use more power, and applications that use an internet connection are the biggest users.
Choosing programs with lower energy use will also help. For example, some internet browsers are more efficient than others.
The Opera internet browser has energy-saving features like pausing activity in tabs you have open but aren’t viewing.
You can also use local programs to work on projects and then copy them into web-based platforms instead of working directly in the web-based platform. For example, you can use Word without an internet connection, saving power.
You can copy your data into a Google Doc using the web-based features. Many Google products also have the option to work offline, which saves energy.
Like wifi, Bluetooth, and your computer accessories, apps, and programs continue to use power in the background when you’re not actively using them.
Closeout programs when you aren’t actively using them. Not only will this save power, but it can also help your computer run better.
You can read my other article, which shows you how to disable certain programs on startup if you want programs only to run when you open them instead of when it starts.
Many activities that conserve power will also help your computer function at its peak, so you aren’t just helping the environment; you’re helping yourself!
Use PC BIOS functions
If you have more computer experience and want to go beyond the Control Panel settings, you can use the BIOS functions.
BIOS functions are accessible for any machine running on Windows.
To access these settings, hit the designated function key when you start up your machine. It will show you the system power settings.
You can make changes and enable sleep settings from this screen according to your preferences. From here, you can enable sleep settings when you close your laptop.
These functions are a little more specific than the ones offered in the Control Panel menu.
However, you can still impact your computer energy consumption with the regular menus if you aren’t an expert and don’t understand BIOS functions.
Power-saving usage tips
The best power-saving usage tip is to turn off items you aren’t using whenever possible.
Using only what you need when you need will maximize your computer’s efficiency and extend the life of your machine.
It can be hard to break old habits, so if you have trouble remembering to shut programs or shut down your laptop at the end of the workday, set reminders, or hook your system up to a power strip with a timer.
You don’t have to be a programmer or a whiz to use less energy. You must know how your operating system works and your work habits.
Notebooks and laptops vs. desktops
Laptops are the better option when considering which type of computer uses less power. Desktop set-ups use significantly more power than a notebook or laptop model.
Part of this is because desktops don’t have a battery option. They also tend to be larger and less efficient. Given the option between a notebook and a desktop, it’s more efficient to pick the laptop.
Laptops are usually a larger up-front investment, but they’ll save you significantly in energy costs over the machine’s lifetime.
Even though they’re naturally more efficient than desktops, it’s still important to take energy-saving steps.
Only charge your laptop when you need to, rather than leave it plugged in all the time. This will help prevent any phantom power drain.
Also, don’t leave the adapter in unless you use timers or smart plugs. Many laptops have special energy-saving settings to preserve battery life.
By mimicking those settings, you can use your power adapter to further these energy savings.
Upgrade your machine
Reducing your computer’s energy consumption isn’t an activity that starts and stops with how you use your machine.
Being mindful of the system you purchase and how you recycle it after it no longer works is an important part of the equation.
You want to choose a machine that will reduce energy use for its whole lifecycle.
When the time comes to get a new computer, look for one that meets both the Energy Star and EPEAT standards.
Energy Star machines must meet specific standards on how much power they consume. All Apple computers meet these standards, and most PCs do as well.
EPEAT standards don’t just look at the power consumption of the machine aftermarket.
Computers that meet EPEAT standards are made with the environment in mind for the whole lifecycle of the product.
The manufacturing process is greener, the operation is more efficient, and recycling dysfunctional machines is easier for EPEAT-certified products.
If you’re using a desktop, you can usually replace parts of it more inexpensively than buying an entirely new machine.
You can upgrade your hard drive, your RAM, or even your motherboard with more energy-efficient versions, extending the life of your computer and reducing your energy consumption at the same time.
When your computer no longer works, look for a recycling program. Many local governments have recycling days or pick-up options to take old electronics, including computers, and safely recycle them.
Make sure you wipe the hard drive or remove it beforehand to protect your data.
Computers are an important part of modern life, but they don’t have to be a source of energy waste.
If everyone makes small adjustments to how they use their machines, it can greatly impact the energy we save.
You can make numerous simple adjustments to how you use your computer to reduce energy consumption.
Modern computers are designed to be energy efficient.
Still, you can take that efficiency a step further by adjusting the power settings on your machine to your work style and turning off accessories and applications when you aren’t using them.
From here, I recommend that you go and read our other article about changing the power plan in Windows 10 to gain more detailed instructions on how to change settings in Windows.