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All in the Watts
Companies across the world are devoting millions to develop technologies that are environmentally friendly. A green and clean world is need of the hour and the sooner companies start realizing this fact, the better it is going to be, both for the companies and humanity. From software for managing power output to innovative hardware designs that make less of an ecological impact, your options for finding ways to save money, electricity, and the earth are growing broader every day. So how can your computer, your cell phone, and your media player embrace these changes?
Computers can't re-channel the power they have already used for better uses, but these days they can use less power than before, and use what they have more efficiently. But since more and more people are making use of computers these days, while fewer and fewer are finding the time to put them in standby, finding new ways to conserve energy is still very pertinent.
The electricity technology uses is measured in watts—1000 watts used for one hour is a kilowatt hour, which costs around 10 to 15 cents depending on providers. Computers and their accessories usually require a continual number of watts while turned on, a number that spikes sharply when they are first started and drops dramatically when they are turned off or switch to standby mode but never all the way, because the little lights that still flicker and the small parts of the systems that still run use power, about 2 to 4 watts even when your PC is turned off. This constant drain can be stopped if the computer (or other device) is unplugged, but this can be unpractical, especially for large businesses.
However, there are certain other ways that can help in energy conservation, which are mentioned in the subsequent sections of this article.
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1. Power Management
Desktop computers have evolved to deal with power in two primary ways--they use it more efficiently, and they can automatically shut down when there is no activity on the system. Many types of technology—from PCs to washing machines—can earn Energy Star qualification for having such energy-saving features, which serve as a badge of honor that is becoming more frequent and easier to achieve as more companies develop better, easier ways to reduce wattage.
You can set your computer to move into standby mode after a set amount of time or choose to do it manually, switching to standby mode whenever you leave your desk. When it comes to using watts more efficiency, you want to take a gander at the efficiency rating, which a product will often display if it is proud of its eco-prowess. This percentage shows you how much electricity the device is actually using. A computer, for instance, may only use 70% of its watts to run, while the other 30% are wasted in the form of heat. It is rare for a device these days to be able to use more than 90% of its power efficiently, but it you have a computer several years old chances are good it will be nowhere near as effective.
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If your use a handheld device, you probably depend on a rechargeable battery for your energy source. Cell phones, PDAs, notebooks, media players, portable gaming systems—they all use some variant of rechargeable battery cells. These batteries have also improved, as companies have worked to design batteries that are lighter, more efficient, and long lasting. However, rechargeable batteries also depend on watts to work, requiring you to plug them in from time to time, just like you have to walk the dog or clean the litter box.
Unfortunately, batteries lose their charging capacity over time, which means they require more frequent and longer charges, until you are tempted to simply leave your laptop plugged in all day, using increasingly more energy in the process. The more energy-efficient procedure is to buy a new battery every few years to save charge time and stop wasting energy.
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3. Power Shutdown Settings
For years people have been trying to reduce the amount of power computers use when they are turned off. Certain systems are handy to keep them running, even when the computer is turned off, and power cables generally require some sort of constant charge when they are plugged in. Businesses often need to keep their computers plugged in overnight, so that IT departments can make software updates as needed.
Fortunately, there are other options. Computers are being built to be more portable, lighter, and more efficient, so unless you are after a hardcore gaming system or a multimedia monster, you can find a PC with lower energy requirements--or you can unplug it every night. The industry has also come up with some innovative answers, for instance, there are plug-in Linux based computers, not much larger than an adapter, designed to consume less power and move easily from outlet to outlet. Fujitsu Siemens has recently introduced a computer that manages to use zero energy when shut down. It comes with a feature for programming time frames for switching into standby so businesses can update their systems.
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Accessories often use more power than the parent device itself, and larger devices such as scanners, printers, and speakers, have energy efficiency ratings of their own. Monitors can often take up the most watts of all, depending on the type (LED displays, for instance, save more energy than LCD screens). Different screens have different power requirements based on their light source and brightness level. Nowadays, certain monitors and TV screens come with eco-settings that lower brightness levels to consume less energy. Of course, you could always turn your screen, printer, and speakers off when you aren't using them.
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5. Materials and Construction
Companies have come up with creative ways to create eco-friendly portable devices. Using recyclable material is going to add value to the environment and it will also increase profitability. Many electronic equipment companies have adopted recycling as a part and parcel of their production cycle and among them Samsung Electronics, Phillips, and Sony are the leading names.
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Conservation, http://www.epa.gov/reg5rcra/wptdiv/p2pages/energy.pdf
- William R. Prindle, PEW Center on Global Climate Change, From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/PEW_EnergyEfficiency_FullReport.pdf