This is part 2 of a four-part series.

Part 1 of this series listed the 5 actions we recommend that you take to reduce the power use of your computer. This post (part 2) explains two of those actions in more detail and tells you how to complete these two actions. Parts 3 and 4 offer more detail about how you can make the other three changes.

Reduce Your Energy Use at No Cost and Save Money Instantly

1.    Set power management on your computer(s)

Light green: Easy Individual Actions

All major operating systems released in the past ten years come with power management built in, but not necessarily turned on. What is power management? It's the ability to set your computer and monitor to automatically go to sleep or shut down after a period of inactivity. Climate Savers Computing are the experts at this and have all the information you should need to accomplish this task. They even have step-by-step guides. We urge you to sign up for CSCI membership either as an individual or affiliate: it's free and it's a way to build momentum for IT energy conservation. They can keep you informed about the latest ways to reduce your IT footprint. They even have a wonderful, searchable list of energy-efficient hardware and software products that help with IT energy reduction.

There are also 3rd-party tools out there that have more features than the built in tools. Verdiem's Edison is free and is recommended by both Climate Savers and Microsoft.

Dark green: More robust solution for IT Departments

Roll out new computers with power management turned on. If you are running an IT department, consider using network power management software like Verdiem's Surveyor or Faronics' PowerSave.

2.    Turn off your computer at night

Light green: Easy Individual Actions

Check with your IT department before implementing this action since you don't want to interrupt backup or software update schedules. If you do shut down nightly, you're not only saving money on electricity, but you're also probably extending the life of your hardware (1.3 MB PDF). Can't remember to shut down each night? Set your power management to at least hibernate (lowest power setting) each night or post a sign where you will see it as you leave.

Dark green: More robust solution for IT Departments

If you currently ask all users to leave their computers on every night for backups and updates, please consider changing your process to one of the following.

  • Use Wake on LAN (WOL) to power up computers when you need them and then shut them down again. Power management software may help you manage this process.
  • Schedule your backups and updates for one night of the week (or month) and ask users to leave their computers on for those nights only. Consider that if you make the maintenance night a Friday then the computers are running all weekend.
  • If certain users need more frequent backups, encourage them to keep their work on a networked server and back up that one server regularly. (Some IT departments have moved exclusively to backing up network drives and not individual computers.)

Remember to read parts 3 and 4 of this series so you can learn how you can make the final three changes to reduce your IT power use.

Photo: Steve Smith, CC license

Anna Jaeger
Co-Director of TechSoup's GreenTech Initiative