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Reducing Your Monitor's Energy Usage

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/1/2010

The size of your computer monitor and your computer usage habits can significantly affect how much electricity your monitor uses. This guide explains some of the ways you can reduce your monitor’s energy consumption.

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    Monitors and Energy Consumption

    It is the mindset of many consumers to get the biggest, flashiest, and brightest gadgets. However, for those who are concerned about a product’s energy usage, buying a product based on the latest and greatest feature set is not the only purchase point to consider. Even after a product is purchased, there are some usage habits and product settings that can affect the amount of power the product draws. In this article, we look at some ways to reduce the energy consumption of your computer monitor.

    If you are in the market for a new computer monitor, you should ensure that you purchase an energy efficient model. Even if it costs you a little extra, you will recoup the extra money you spent from savings on your electricity bill, assuming that you didn’t splurge on the purchase. One way to ensure that your new monitor has green credentials is to purchase an Energy Star compliant model. According to Energy Star, equipment that earns their certification uses 25% to 60% less electricity than standard models. Besides buying an energy efficient computer monitor, here are some ways you can save on your monitor’s energy usage.

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    Use the Power Saving Options

    Monitors and Energy Consumption All operating systems now have power saving options that can be used, not only to affect the way the system unit uses power, but the computer monitor as well. There is no need for the monitor to be on if it is not being used. Screen savers don’t count as an energy saving feature because they may use the same amount of power as when the monitor is being used on a productive task.

    You can use the power and display options to put the computer, and the monitor in particular, in sleep mode, or just have it make the screen blank when it’s not in use. If you are using Windows, go to the Control Panel and choose Power Options. Select the Power Schemes tab and make the necessary changes that fit they way you use your computer.

    Even in sleep mode, most monitors will still continue to draw power; if your monitor has an off switch, use it to completely turn the monitor off. To be doubly sure, you can unplug the monitor or turn of the power brick it is connected to. Cutting the power to your computer should be a part of your routine, especially if you are going to be away from your computer for more than a day.

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    Turn Down the Brightness

    Reducing your monitor’s power consumption, by turning down the brightness settings, may not be an obvious energy saving option, but the small power consumption reductions can add up. Adjusting a monitor's luminance setting affects the amount of light that’s emitted by its backlight, and by extension the amount of watts that is being used. As a matter of fact, the brightness setting is the biggest factor that affects the amount of power a monitor uses, regardless of whether you are playing a game, watching a video or working on a Word document.

    You may be surprised to find out that the contrast setting has a minimal effect on power consumption. This is because it doesn’t affect the amount of light that is emitted from the backlighting. The contrast setting only controls the monitor's white level, and therefore has little effect on your monitor’s power usage.

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    Replace Your CRT with a LCD Display

    While it is true that CRT monitors have better viewing angles, faster response rates and have better color presentation than LCDs, CRTs can’t match LCDs in terms of energy efficiency. Not only do LCD monitors use less power, they generally look better and take up less space on a desk. If you're still using a CRT display, consider getting a LCD to replace it.

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    Get a Smaller Monitor

    This option is mentioned last because it is not the most popular option, you will agree. Bigger they say, is better, but not where power consumption is concerned. A large monitor allows you to be more productive, by making more screen real estate available for you to work or play. Playing Sims or Warcraft on a 30-inch, at a 2,560x1,600 resolution is awesome, but if your electricity bill makes you cringe, consider getting a smaller display.

    According to CNET lab’s Monitor Efficiency Guide, the energy consumption of a 30” monitor can be more than 8 times that of a energy efficient 19”, that’s a lot. If having a large monitor is not a major priority, consider going with a smaller display, it will be cheaper to operate.

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    It may come as a surprise to some persons that the energy consumption among various computer monitors can vary so widely. Regardless of whether or not you use your computer a lot, there are still things you can do to reduce the monitor's energy consumption. You can start by replacing your CRT with a LCD display, making a few changes to the monitor's power saving options, turning down the monitor's brightness or simply getting a smaller monitor. Going green not only saves you money, it feels good as well.