Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saving Energy at Home

The New York Times has an article about stopping energy loss from idle devices in the home. Here is an excerpt:
I started checking how much electricity my electronics were consuming when I wasn’t using them. I used a Kill A Watt EZ energy meter (available online for about $25) and began measuring. My PC was continuously drawing 134 watts all night.
The more devices I checked, the worse it got. My
TiVo digital video recorder was sucking down about 30 watts when it was not playing or recording a show. A Comcast digital cable set-top box made by Motorola that I tested was drawing about 40 watts. My DVD player was drawing 26 watts while idle, and my audio system — which I rarely turned off — was using 47 watts. This was in addition to the numerous power adapters and chargers, each drawing 1 or 2 watts, not to mention several other devices sipping energy to keep clocks running or to be ready to turn on at the push of a button.
I’m partly to blame for the audio system and DVD player. They do have on/off switches that I was failing to use. I had falsely assumed they were using relatively little power. But I tested
DVR’s from Comcast, Dish Network and TiVo, and none went into a low-power mode. All of this wasted power was costing me money and pumping unnecessary CO2 into the atmosphere. My PC alone was contributing 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually. The DVR. was adding another 543 pounds.
Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says. In an effort to address that, a consortium of
Intel, Google, PC makers and other technology companies this week announced their intent to increase the PC’s overall energy efficiency to 90 percent.
Products that idle in what the industry calls low-power mode, or lopomo, consumed about 10 percent of total electricity in California homes, according to a 2002 study prepared for the California Energy Commission by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A few of those devices, even those with Energy Star ratings that signal that they are less wasteful, still use a lot of power. “Some of the larger big-screen TVs consume as much energy each year as a new refrigerator,” according to Noah Horowitz, a scientist at the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
You do not have to use an energy meter to reduce your consumption. If you don’t turn off your PC when it is not in use, make sure it goes into a low-power sleep, suspend or hibernate mode. That doesn’t always happen automatically. Windows XP has both a suspend and hibernate option, but it isn’t always turned on by default. Computers running the Windows XP operating system can be configured by clicking on Power Options in the Control Panel to set the number of minutes before Windows will turn off the monitor and hard disks or put the system into standby or hibernate mode. (Hibernation uses the least amount of energy). If it is a notebook PC, there are separate settings for when it runs on the battery and when it is plugged in.
Microsoft says that it has overhauled energy management in its Vista operating system so that machines, by default, should go into a low-power state after 60 minutes of inactivity. The PC sips only a few watts until the user touches the mouse or keyboard. To configure a machine with Vista, type “Power Options” in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.”

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