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Three Myths about Computer Power Use

April 29, 2015
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As you get ready to leave your home or office, you face a decision. Do you turn the computer off, or leave it on? Being an energy conscious consumer, you want to make the decision that will be the most energy efficient and safe for your computer. Here, we dispel three modern-day myths about your computer’s energy consumption.

Myth #1:  Starting a computer causes an energy surge that uses more energy than simply leaving it on.

While there is a very small surge in electricity consumption as you boot up a computer, it lasts for only a fraction of a second. The cost of this burst of electricity is so small that it cannot be measured. Leaving the computer running will always use more energy than turning it off at night and restarting it when you return.

Myth #2:  Turning a computer on and off is hard on the machine and will damage its internal mechanisms.

Today’s computers use parts created through a manufacturing process known as thermal cycling which greatly increases their strength and durability. During manufacturing, the process of repeatedly heating and cooling materials such as ceramic or metal eliminates the small surface cracks and flaws that are most likely to cause part failure.

Myth #3:  As long as I turn the computer off at night, I don’t need to use the device’s sleep settings.

While shutting the computer and monitor completely down is the best choice for saving on electricity costs, today’s computers use very little power when in sleep mode. A laptop in sleep mode will use about two watts of electricity and a desktop will use 5-10 watts. Setting your computer to go to sleep after being idle for 15 minutes will benefit you throughout the day—when you are periodically away from your desk.

The bottom line is that shutting your computer down will use less energy than leaving it on. However, be sure to take advantage of the machine’s sleep mode settings to provide an energy-efficient safety net for those nights you simply forget to shut it down. You can learn more about this from energy.gov.