Earth Hour Inspires Better Power-Down PC Habits

What’s the power of an hour? In 2012, the promise of a more environmentally-conscious planet inspired individuals in nearly 700 cities in more than 100 countries to take part in an hour of powering down around the world.  In the past six years, the Earth Hour movement has grown from a national event in Australia to an international conversation to raise awareness about Earth’s precious environment and how global citizens can collectively make a difference.  People this year will celebrate Earth Hour on March 23 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in local time zones.  For all the ins and outs on how to participate, check out Earth Hour’s website.

I am going to power down this year. The last time I did happened when my family lost power in one of those rare but crippling winter storms atypical for North Carolina. Armed with a headlamp and a book, a new awareness crept inside my consciousness – if everyone really did sweat the small power savings, collectively it could make a big difference. And that’s the power of Earth Hour.

I’m no energy efficiency expert. But I know one who is when it comes to PCs. So I asked Lenovo master inventor Howard Locker how to squeeze out as much energy efficiency from PCs and how much it could save.

Together we came up with a shortlist of best practices:

Buy the most efficient desktop for the job with an 80+ or higher power supply. The easiest way to do this is to scan the list of Energy Star rated products and check the back of the power supply to make sure it's marked energy efficiency level V or higher. Also choose an Ultrabook over a traditional laptop. On average, it uses half the power.

Sleep is good. Set your PC to go to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity. Use the Lenovo Power Manager to do this, Windows power management or power options specific to your PC. This can save you 20-50% the amount of energy if it was turned on. And set the hard drive to turn off after 30 minutes.

Skip screen savers. They use an incredible amount of energy by keeping your computer running at full power. Instead just turn the monitor off and do item 2 which also turns the monitor off after 10 minutes.

Turn down the monitor’s brightness. You’ll save about 25 percent doing this since the monitor draws about 50 percent of the PC’s power.

Turn off wireless radios you aren’t using.  3G/4G if you are using WiFi, Bluetooth if you are not connected to any BT devices, NFC, etc.

Remember vampire power. Unplug devices and AC/DC power bricks from their outlets especially if you’re not using them for awhile. The savings are small, but every bit helps.

Go for PCs that use post-consumer recycled content. That means some of the materials came from used consumer goods like water bottles taking fewer resources to produce. EPEAT and other environmental assessment tools like UL Environment rate computers on this criteria.  To date, Lenovo has used almost 100 million pounds (gross) of plastics that contain post-consumer recycled content.  All Lenovo Edge laptops contain at least 10 percent PCC and all Lenovo ThinkVision monitors contain post-consumer recycled content, as well as many desktops and workstations.

I learned I’ve been practicing some bad habits, mainly not setting up my PC for sleep mode and keeping the monitor on the brightest settings. Now I’ll be spreading my newfound PC energy efficiency evangelism to others and using Earth Hour as a good reminder that no good habit is too small.