written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 11/5/2009
The easiest way to find an energy efficient desktop or laptop computer.
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Using ENERGY STAR Guidelines
Whether for your personal use or small business, you can affordably go green with your next new computer. Every computer owner can make a difference. According to ENERGY STAR, "If all computers sold in the United States meet the ENERGY STAR requirements, the savings in energy costs will grow to about $2 billion each year and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by the equivalent of those from 2 million cars."
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR guidelines for computers state that qualified products must meet energy use guidelines in three distinct operating modes: standby, sleep mode, and while computers are in use. This ensures energy savings when a computer is active and performing a range of tasks and while in "stand by" mode. ENERGY STAR has a form you can complete to find an ENERGY STAR qualified computer that meets your needs.
The Green Electronics Council provides the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). The web site contains a chart that identifies desktops, monitors, and notebooks in the bronze, silver, and gold categories. The criteria measures efficiency and sustainability features. Computers receiving a gold rating meet the most criteria.
You can also do your own search if you can't find a computer that meets your needs. Know that picking energy efficient monitors, printers, and computers can save over $115 in the products' lifetime, according to energystar.gov.
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Desktop vs. Laptop
Trying to decide between a desktop and a laptop? If everything is equal, then go for the laptop as they use less energy than a desktop. Computers receiving ENERGY STAR 4.0 certification have a power supply unit (PSU) that's at least 80 percent efficient.
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Since you can buy desktop and workstation monitors separately, it's easier to find a monitor that has the ENERGY STAR stamp of approval. These monitors use 25 to 60 percent less electricity than most standard monitors.
The video cards on gaming computers use a lot of power. So if you don't need that, go for a less powerful video card that uses an integrated (also known as shared) graphics processing unit (GPU). The faster the GPU, the more energy it uses.
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Duo or multi-processors like Intel Core 2 Duo are not only 40 percent faster than Intel's single core processor, but also 40 percent more energy efficient.
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Once you pick out the perfect computer, configure its power management options. Setting the options to put the computer in hibernate or sleep mode during inactivity conserves energy. The settings depend on the computer's operating system and most manufacturers' web sites provide energy efficiency recommended settings.
Using ENERGY STAR's forms or EPEAT's criteria chart is the easiest way to find an energy efficient computer. Knowing the details about the biggest computer energy hogs will help you buy the computer the best fits your needs with the most energy efficient features should you not find the right one using the tools.