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Standby For Savings

What’s the value of using the power-management features on your computer?

Plenty, as it turns out.

The savings from properly using a computer’s power-management tools—telling it to automatically switch into standby or hibernation mode after a pre-set period of inactivity—can total as much as $60 a year per computer, estimates.

That adds up to more than 600 kilowatt-hours saved annually—equivalent to dropping the temperature in your home by 2 degrees in the winter or replacing six standard light bulbs with compact fluorescents. It also reduces nearly half a ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

A computer’s settings can generally be accessed through the “Power Options” icon on the control panel of a Windows-based operating system.

For a Macintosh, click on the Apple icon on the top left of the screen, look under “System Preferences,” and select “Energy Saver.” These settings are recommended:

Monitor/display sleep: Set to turn off after 15 minutes or less.

Turn off hard drives/hard disk sleep: 15 minutes or less.

System standby/sleep: After 30 minutes or less.

Hibernation: A little longer than standby—45 to 60 minutes.

Your PC’s power tools: “set it and forget it”
Your computer’s power-management configurations are what some tech experts describe as “set it and forget it.” Once you’ve properly configured your machine, your work is basically done, and you can awaken a sleeping computer quickly with a single touch of the mouse or keypad.

How to properly configure the settings will depend to some extent on personal preference, and on your operating system. Here are some tips.

Screen savers. According to the federal Department of Energy, screen savers don’t actually save energy. If they are graphics-intense, they may use more energy than simply leaving the computer on. They may also interfere with the computer’s ability to drop into sleep mode. So consider not using a screen saver at all, and don’t simply set the computer to go to a screen saver overnight.

Brightness. Turning down the monitor’s brightness setting can reduce the amount of energy used.

Sleep or standby? There are some differences between standby and hibernation modes, although both use little energy—from 1 to 3 watts. In standby, the computer cuts power to hardware components you aren’t using. It maintains power to your computer’s memory so you don’t lose your work. In hibernation mode, the data is saved in memory to the hard disk. It takes a little longer for the system to wake up from hibernation (a few seconds for standby; maybe 30 seconds to a few minutes from hibernation).

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