Green Computing

Green Computing

Green and Clean Computing

Little thought may be given to the energy consumption of computers, but as more and more computers are purchased each year, it is not just the number of computers that forces increased energy consumption but the way in which computers are being used that adds to the building energy burden. Research has shown that most computer desktops are not being used a great deal of the time they are running and are left on for long periods of time. As with other forms of energy consumption, electricity is wasted when it is not being used and this burns fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide into the air and cause smog, acid rain and other detrimental environmental side effects.

The typical desktop computer consists of a system unit which houses the central processing unit (CPU), a monitor and a printer. The CPU may require 100 watts of electrical power; the monitor, which may be 15 to 17 inches, may require another 50-100 watts; a laser printer can use as much as 100 watts or more while ink printers use as little as 12 watts while printing. The cost for operating a 200 watt system all day and night, everyday, would be $125 annually, while the cost of operation for normal business hours of 40 hours per week would range around $30 annually. Considering the tremendous benefits derived from using computers, this figure may not appear extensive, but when multiplied by the many computers used on a daily basis in this country, the total grows phenomenally.

There are many ways to reduce personal computer energy consumption. Computers, printers and monitors can be turned off when not in use. Many years ago, it was considered harmful to the computer if it were turned on and off periodically during the course of a day. However, the internal circuitry of personal computers is designed to be protected from power damages that might result from on and off switching. Doing so will not substantially affect the computer’s useful life.

The use of screen savers wastes energy and should not be used. They go back to the days when, if not used, images would be ingrained on screens if they remained on too long, but updates in technology have long made the use of screen savers unnecessary.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has also developed technology for computers and monitors that can be programmed to automatically power down to a lower power state when not in use. This “sleep mode” can reduce energy consumption by 60% to 70% and these “Energy Star” computers serve to gain efficiency without any loss in computing performance.

Green computing extends beyond the personal computer to the use of related devices and materials. For example, paper waste can be reduced by printing as little as possible and only when necessary, recycling waster paper, using electronic mail instead of faxing to eliminate the need to produce a hard copy, and trying to print on both sides of the page when possible. In addition, printer and toner cartridges can be recycled. Although this is a practice that has been discouraged in the past by printer and toner cartridge manufacturers, such recycled cartridges save resources and reduce pollution and solid waste. Disposing of electronics as well can be done through recycling agencies to reduce waste and provide for recycling of functional equipment.

Finally, green computing also means not buying new equipment unless there is a real need for it. Close investigations can be made regarding upgrading hardware or software before purchasing a new computer. However, if the determination is made that a new computer system should be purchased, there are “Energy Star” computers, monitors and printers on the market. In addition, ink jet printers use 80% to 90% less energy than laser printers and soon, even “Green Computers” will reach the marketplace for sale.

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