How to Get a Green Computer

Are you running a green computer? You might think that a computer doesn’t take much power. It’s just a little box. You might be surprised to learn that a desktop PC consumes 200 to 400 watts of power. Add a 30-inch monitor, and you add another 750 watts. A refrigerator only consumes around 725 watts. Surprised? Running a green computer isn’t just about power consumption. The EPA warns consumers that the short lifespan of the average computer combined with the toxic chemicals used to construct parts means that the toxic effects of computer disposal are extremely high.

80 Plus Power Supplies

The first way to run a green computer is to look for an 80 Plus compliant power supply. These power supplies deliver only the power required to run. For example, if you have a 600-watt power supply but your computer requires only 250 watts to function, an 80 Plus power supply will provide 250 watts.

Most conventional power supplies provide more power than a computer needs in order to run. This wasted energy adds up to significant electrical bills, so using an energy-efficient 80 Plus power supply saves a ton of money over the course of a year. As an added bonus, 80 Plus power supplies conform to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive and contain no lead. Other manufacturers are beginning to follow suit and release green power supplies, so check the market often to see what’s available.

Choose Lead-Free Components

Building a green computer is not just about choosing a green power supply. Lead and other toxic chemicals are found in nearly all computer parts manufactured in the United States, although the European Union has developed a set of regulations governing toxic materials in computer products. Intel released its first lead-free microprocessors in late 2007, followed by lead-free Ethernet adaptors. Unfortunately, many of the other manufacturers who provide computer parts to the United States have not yet followed suit, and it is still extremely difficult to build an entirely lead-free computer.

Until manufacturers make the transition to lead-free components, running a green computer means recycling the materials used in construction. Make sure you properly dispose of and recycle your lead parts. Contact your local officials or waste-management specialists to find out about recycling computers and hazardous waste disposal in your area. One great way to build a green computer is to buy refurbished or remanufactured parts and components. Instead of going to waste, those products can go to you, the consumer, at a reduced cost. You get a green computer and you save money, compared with the cost of buying new components.

Look for Green Manufacturers

With increasing calls for energy efficiency, many computer manufacturers now offer green computers with energy-efficient power supplies and energy-saving components. Computer manufacturers that advertise energy-efficient computers and laptops include Dell, Fujitsu, HP and Lenovo. Until lead-free components truly take off in the United States, the most green computer you can get is an energy-efficient model from one of these manufacturers.

Power Management

One easy way to green a computer is to use its built-in settings. Both Windows and Macintosh computers include power-management features that prompt the computer, hard drive and monitor to go into a low-energy sleep mode after a preset period of inactivity. For optimal energy efficiency, choose power-management settings of 15 minutes of inactivity or less. When you move the mouse or press any key on the computer, power-management mode is deactivated and the monitor, hard drive and computer are ready for use within a few seconds. Look for this feature on monitors as well to maximize energy savings.

Going smaller is another good way to green a computer. Laptops use significantly less energy than desktops; 40 to 50 watts compared with 200 to 400, respectively. A smaller flatscreen monitor also contributes to a green computer, since energy consumption grows rapidly with monitor size.

Look for the Energy Star

The Energy Star program run by the US government provides guidelines for power consumption of most electronics. To earn an Energy Star, a computer must offer the lowest power consumption available in sleep, standby and full-use modes. For monitors, a formula based on screen size is used to determine power consumption, but all qualifying monitors must use 2 watts of power or less in Sleep mode and 1 watt of power or less when turned off.

Looking for the Energy Star will help you choose a green computer and monitor, but you’ll find a limited number of choices available. Most of the current computers and monitors available aren’t eligible for the Energy Star, but manufacturers are working to lower power consumption. You may pay more up front for a green computer, but the investment will pay for itself over time in energy savings and the knowledge that you’re helping to care for the environment.

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