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Home Office Equipment: Compute the Savings

Do Your Home Work

Computers and home office equipment are a huge part of our daily lives. But while manufacturers and retailers promote the advantages of these products, they normally fail to emphasize all of the energy that these products actually consume. Fortunately, you still have the power to save energy in your home office by buying efficient products, using their energy saving device settings, and using your equipment as efficiently as possible.

Shop Talk: Buying Efficiency

Manufacturers and retailers generally prefer to highlight the speed, features and capabilities of electronic products as selling points, rather than focusing on the energy efficiency of these products. And even though the ENERGY STAR® label is a good indicator of products with power management features, it’s still difficult to find detailed information concerning computer energy use at most retail stores. CNET’s website is just one example of many good online resources available for electronics energy efficiency information. The website has an extensive review of most major computer equipment, and includes power use information in its “Juice Box” section, as well as a yearly estimated cost to run the computer.CNET compares the energy use of a computer against other products in its category (basic, gaming, home theater, etc.). Remember—the amount of energy your equipment uses depends on and reflects your use habits

Laptops: Portable Power Savers

Laptops are more expensive than comparable desktops, but use one-third of the energy.1 Because they’re popular and portable, laptops have made great advances in terms of energy efficiency.

New features like low-powered central processing units (CPUs) and solid-state hard drives are designed so as to improve laptop efficiency. Low-powered CPUs save energy for low-end laptops and netbook systems. Thermal design power (TDP) measures the amount of heat wasted by the cooling system, and developers have focused on lowering TDP to improve the efficiency of low-powered CPUs. Solid-state hard drives may also save energy. Unlike traditional hard drives, solid-state models don’t have moving parts, so they run cooler, reducing the need for their fans to operate. However, CNET’s website seems to claim that although these hard drives spend more time in a low-power state, their batteries don’t actually last longer, and what’s more is that they cost more than traditional hard drives do.

Another benefit of laptops is that quite a few of them use liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. LCD screens are more efficient than traditional desktop and TV screens. However, one of the newest technologies available right now for laptops is light-emitting diode (LED) backlit screens. Although more expensive and only available on some models, LED backlit screens are capable of being much brighter and using less energy than standard LCDs.

What’s on Your Desktop?

There’s a desktop computer available for virtually every task, and energy consumption varies by use. If you run programs needing little power and speed (like Internet tasks,) a “nettop” may be a good option. These usually cost less and use less space and energy than standard desktops.

Models with hybrid graphics can also help save energy. They split graphic demands between a graphics chip and a low-power graphics processing unit to consume less energy. While hybrid graphics may be more efficient, they are also more expensive and not upgradable. Like laptops, there are desktop models with solid-state hard drives. Again, these models use less energy, but they are more expensive than those using traditional hard drives.

Monitor Your Energy Use

Older cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors with curved glass screens use more power and take up more space than flat LCD screens do.2 They also tend to use more energy in sleep mode. While LED LCD screens are more expensive, they have higher image quality and are capable of being even thinner than standard LCD screens.

Multitaskers: MFMs

Multifunction Machines (MFMs) can scan, print, fax, and copy – all from your home office. You may be able to save space, money, and energy, by using an MFM instead of a collection of separate devices. If you must have a separate printer, inkjets use substantially less energy than laser printers.3 However, if you really want to go with a laser printer because of the higher quality prints they are known to produce, a low speed model laser printer is capable of using less than half the energy a high-speed model does. Similarly, low speed MFMs will allow for   energy savings over high-speed models.


Computer and Office Equipment Energy Usage4
Product Passive standby or Off (watts) Active Standby (watts) Active (watts) Average Annual Energy Use (kWh/yr)
Desktop 4 17 68 255
Laptop 1 3 22 83
CRT monitor 2 3 70 82
LCD monitor 1 2 27 70
Multifunctional device, inkjet 6 9 15 55

Use & Care

Proper maintenance and use of computers and electronics in your home office will maximize efficiency measures. Learn more about Computer & Office Equipment Use & Care, where to start, and how to care for office electronics for the most savings. Return to Office & Home Electronics .

Buyer’s Guide

Before you shop for efficiency upgrades, visit the Computer & Office Equipment Buyer’s Guide for easy facts and figures that can help you choose the best electronics for your home office, needs and budget.

1ACEEE. (2010). Consumer Resources: Home Electronics. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from aceee.org
2Goorskey, S., Smith, A., & Wang, K. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #7 Electronics. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from rmi.org(p. 2). 
3Goorskey, S., Smith, A., & Wang, K. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #7 Electronics. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from rmi.org(p. 3). 
4ACEEE. (2010). Consumer Resources: Home Electronics. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://aceee.org/consumer/home-electronics.

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