One of the most energy-consuming appliances in your home is the desktop PC. Some PCs, especially those that are built for gaming, use electricity even far more than air-conditioning units. But there are a couple of ways you can save electricity and bring that monthly utility bill down.
First, let’s talk about the video card. The video card is probably the computer part that hogs most of the electricity. State-of-the-art video cards usually eat up hundreds of watts and some even go as high as 300 watts on their own. Just imagine if you have an AMD Crossfire or NVIDIA SLi setup (two or more video cards being used at the same time for better performance). Usually, these video cards have huge fans and cooling systems, and some even have two of them.
When playing graphics-intensive video games, your video card works double-time and it will need a lot of power in order to do so. Thus, your power supply would need to provide extra electricity to your video card in order to power it up for that PC game. Try to lower the graphics settings to lessen the strain on your video card thus, possibly reducing its power requirements.
If you have an onboard video controller apart from your discrete video card, and if your processor and motherboard allows it, switch to the onboard video controller if you’re not playing 3D games. You may even be able to automatically turn the discrete video card on if you’re about to play a 3D game and then automatically switch back to the onboard video afterwards. I see this feature a lot on laptops and I have seen a couple of desktop motherboards and processors with this feature.
Let’s move on to USB. USB devices are a contributing factor to power consumption as well. Whenever you use a USB device, it usually needs power from the USB port. If it’s a USB drive, external hard drive or optical drive and other devices, it will eat up a bit of electricity from your power supply. If you’re not using a USB device, I would really recommend that you unplug it from the USB port.
Another key factor to power saving is overclocking. Overclocking is the process of forcefully increasing the performance of your computer by setting the clock speed of your processor, memory or graphics card. Usually, in order to achieve substantial improvement from overclocking, you really need to increase the power in order to get stable performance. I would suggest that you don’t do it though. You will void the warranty, possibly damage it permanently, use extra cooling and it will increase your electricity consumption.
Conventional hard disk drives are mechanical in nature, which means that they have moving parts thus, require more power. It is inevitable though since every time you use your computer, you must access your hard drive in order to load your operating system. How can you save energy then, you say? If you have extra cash, you may opt for a solid-state drive. They are a bit expensive, but not as expensive when it was first introduced. They don’t have mechanical parts and they operate at very, very low power. Plus, they’re quiet.
You can use it to store your operating system and your most used applications. You can just use your old hard drive as backup. This way, you only use energy when accessing the backups on your old hard drive. During your mainstream operation, using your operating system and most used applications, your solid-state drive will be the ones working and you’ll save electricity. In the long run, the energy savings you get could very well offset the cost of buying a solid-state drive.
The power supply can also save you electricity. It is not recommended to use generic or low-quality power supplies. They usually can’t efficiently power up your computer and may put those extra watts to waste. Try to use power supplies which are 80+ certified. They are much more expensive but they effectively maximize power distribution to the different parts of your computer.
In addition to the more important parts of the computer, a lot of PC enthusiasts out there put a lot of modifications to their PCs. Some have extra, but mostly unnecessary, lights on their PC cases, some have lots of fans, cooling systems, etc. And did I mention that some of the fans even have LED lights on them? It might not be substantial but they still use electricity.
Apart from hardware, you can set automatic power saving modes on your PCs. You can set your monitor to turn off after a few minutes if you’re not doing anything. This holds true to your hard drive as well. If you’re not accessing your hard drive for around an hour, you’re probably not doing anything. You can also set it to turn off after an hour or so. If you need to go out and need your computer as soon as you get back, you can just put it on sleep mode. It will put the computer on a very low power consuming mode, just enough to store information so that you won’t have to re-start your computer anymore when you come back.
These are just some of the easiest ways to save electricity while using your PC. Apart from the PC itself, you have other peripherals like printers, speakers, webcams, monitors, projectors, and so on. If you’re not using them, turn them off. You may not see the benefits immediately, but in the long run, these might just save you a couple of dollars on your bill.