Energy Conservation

The ability to help the environment through saving energy is often at our fingertips. It's called the "on/off" button, though sometimes "pulling the plug" is actually required to truly "shut off" some devices.

How you use your electronics can have a huge impact on both the environment and your bank account. Your choices determine if that impact is positive or negative. Here are 5 simple tips to save you a little "green" on your utility bills by saving energy.

Kill the Phantom Load
A phantom load (or "energy vampire") is any appliance or electronic gizmo that uses energy even when turned off. If your home is typical, you live with 20 vampires. They add about $200 to your annual energy bill, according to Cornell University. That’s because the "off" button doesn’t really mean "off" these days. Instead, it means "standby."
Power Button Shutting Down Can Be the Earth Friendly Thing to Do Slideshow
Your TV likely uses more energy during the 20 hours a day that it's turned "off" and in a "standby power" state than it does during the hours you watch the tube. Next to the TV, the biggest standby energy hog is the home computer and everything attached to it.

Here are some clues to identify your energy suckers: They’re appliances with remote controls, such as TVs, VCRs, DVRs and audio equipment. They feature a continuous digital display - like those glowing clocks on stoves. They feature rechargeable batteries, such as cordless phones (which use energy even after the battery is charged). And they’re appliances with external power supplies, such as printers and iPod chargers.

Combating Vampires
How can you combat vampires?
  • Kill vampires by using a power strip.
    • Plug all components of a computer or home entertainment system into a power strip.
    • Turn off the power strip with a single switch. Anything plugged into the strip now is truly turned off.
  • Unplug "vampires." Unplug rarely used appliances. Ditto for chargers that aren't in use. Unplug the TV, toaster oven and other well-used appliances before you leave on vacation (or more frequently). If it's not plugged in, it can't suck energy.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances bearing the Energy Star label. That way, at least your vampires will suck away less energy.
Turn Your Computer Off at Night
If worrying about "phantom loads" in your home sounds too overwhelming, you can make a big difference just by turning off your work station when you're not using it. In 1 year, if you shut your machine off before bed each night, you'll save an average of $90 worth of electricity. The Department of Energy recommends shutting off your monitor if you aren't going to use it for more than 20 minutes, and the whole system if you're not going to use it for more than 2 hours. The agency says time spent off extends your machine's life, too.

Optimize Computer Energy Settings & Save
Did you know that 90% of desktop computers are not optimized for energy efficiency? It's simple to utilize the power management settings on your machine, and according to Intel, it can save you over 400-kilowatt hours annually. Depending on what you're shelling out for electricity, that's a savings of about $40-$80 each year.
  • Step 1 - Click on the start menu. From there, you'll want to click on "settings," then "control panel."
  • Step 2 - Double click on "power management." Under where it says "power schemes," choose "always on" from the drop-down list. Below the "settings for always on power scheme" tab, look for 2 drop-down lists, labeled "turn off monitor" and "turn off hard disks," respectively.
  • Step 3 - From each list select the amount of time you want your computer to wait before entering energy savings mode.
If you’re on a Mac, it's even easier to implement these settings. Just go to the Apple pull-down menu, select "system preferences" and then "energy saver." It's all in there.

Download Your Software
Instead of shopping for software at the store, consider simply downloading what you need directly from the Internet. You'll save resources, as well as time and fuel. CDs are made out of nonrenewable petroleum products, and are difficult to recycle. They are placed in plastic jewel cases, stuffed into boxes with manuals and wrapped in more plastic. Around the world, more than a billion unwanted computer disks are tossed out each year, reports ElectronicsRecycling. Millions of packaging boxes are also cast off.

Recycle Old or Broken Electronics
This is no small step toward helping the environment, considering that 20-50 million tons of electronics waste (e-waste) are discarded globally every year, according to Greenpeace. If all that e-rubbish were put into containers on a train it would go once around the world!

The Consumer Electronics Association has set up a handy Website to make the process simple. Log on to mygreenelectronics, where you can search for local recycling drop-off points by zip code and product category. Several major companies also have recycling programs. Also, for more information about recycling old computers, TV sets and other electronics, visit the Electronics Recycling page.