Just because you power down your PC at the end of the work day doesn't mean it's not chewing on your power cable.
Power bills around the country are set to rise — again. In NSW, reports state the average rise on July 1 will be a whopping 16% with the carbon tax as well as a catch-up on infrastructure spending to blame.
Our ever-increasing love of all things tech is also playing its part. But there are ways we can all knock down our power consumption and save money at the same time. In fact, even if you're just an average family, you should be able to save as much as $100 a year just by following our tips.
We tested out these tips in one home and these are our results (below). This home had two desktop PCs with accompanying printers, a 32in LCD TV as well as an ADSL modem — certainly by no means a huge inventory. But with the cost of electricity set to rise, we managed to find nearly $150 a year in power savings. The more workstations or gadgets you have around your home, the greater the potential there is to save even more cash.
Drop the brightness on your LCD monitor
LCD monitors use a backlight to generate the screen brightness you see. The brighter you have that backlight set, the more power it consumes. If you're running standard office apps and you've got the monitor set to 100% brightness, you're wasting money. Dropping the brightness to 20% will still make it easily visible and save you as much as 50% in power consumption. If your PC is running eight hours a day every day, that power saving will add up over the course of a year.
Hours per day running : 8 hours
Power saved : up to 30W
Yearly savings : up to $22 per monitor
Switch your TV from 'dynamic' to 'cinema'
Changing the brightness level won't actually do much to power consumption on an LCD TV. But if you're running it in 'dynamic' picture mode, we've found you can save up to 30% power by dropping back to 'cinema' mode instead. This mode should also give you more lifelike colours on movies, so it's a win-win. And the bigger the TV you have, the more you'll likely save.
Hours per day running : 6 hours
Power saved : up to 45W
Yearly savings : up to $25 per TV
Don't play games? Don't use a graphics card
Check that you don't have two graphics options on your desktop PC. If you do and you're not into gaming, you could save up to half of your PC's power consumption by removing the dedicated graphics card. Many Intel and AMD processors now have integrated graphics engines you can connect your monitor to via ports at the back of the computer. We tested this on a late-model Intel Core i5 desktop — removing the graphics card saw power consumption while sitting at the Windows desktop drop from 92W to just 46W, which is a saving of 50%.
Hours per day running : 8 hours
Power saved : up to 50W
Yearly savings : up to $35 per graphics card
Unplug your PC at the end of the day
Just because you power down your PC at the end of the work day doesn't mean it's not chewing on your power cable. Unless you flick the power switch at the wall socket, your PC — and your peripherals such as a scanner or printer — will be consuming power. On a test of just two desktop PC workstations, the power consumption on each was 14W, even though neither was officially 'on'. Turning stuff off at the wall is the best way to ensure you're not consuming any power.
Hours per day running : 16 hours
Power saved : up to 15W
Yearly savings : up to $22 per workstation
Turn off your ADSL router
For most of us, the ADSL modem/router sits in the corner flashing away 24 hours a day. But it's consuming the same amount of power whether you're using it or not. So if you're not downloading during the night, why have it running at 2am? Most routers consume less than 10W of power, but even if it's off for just 12 hours a day, every little bit helps.
Hours per day running : 12 hours
Power saved : up to 10W
Yearly savings : up to $10 per unit
Our test results of power savings made
How to use a Power Meter
If you really want to quantify just how much you can save, the best way is with a device called an AC power meter. When buying a power meter there are several models available — check out our reviews at techlife.net/powersavings — and they'll tell you how much power any device plugged into them is consuming.
Although you'll find there are many different types available on the market, all consumer-grade AC power meters are designed to show you what's called the instantaneous power usage, which just means how much power the device is using at that particular time.
They're pretty easy to use, too: just plug the power meter into the wall socket, plug the device you want to test into the power meter, switch the power on and it'll tell you the result. Most meters will also keep a record of power used and cost over time, but the simplest way is to just note the power usage.
To work out how much power you can save, write down the power usage in the device's normal mode, then alter some of the settings, see how the power usage changes and write down the new result. Subtract the second result from the first and that's how much power you will save. You can use this method to work out the power saved by dropping the brightness of your computer monitor, for example.
Working out the exact amount of money you save can be done if you know your power charges and can convert watts (W) into kilowatt hours (kWh) and the rest. To help you do this, download our exclusive TechLife PowerSaver app. Add that to our tips described in this article plus our reviews of AC power meters, and you'll have everything you need to save money on your future power bills.
Watts Clever Energy Watch Monitor
How to use the TechLife PowerSaver app
- Type in a description. This can be anything, just something you can use to remember which device is providing the particular saving.
- Work out your power saved. Grab an AC power meter (check out our reviews), plug it into the mains and then plug the device you want to test into the AC power meter socket. Switch it on and you should see the device power up and the power reading on the meter itself. Write down the power usage (the watts currently used), make a change to the device — for example, change mode or brightness — wait for it to settle and write down the new power usage. Provided the new power usage is less than the original, the difference between the two is the watts saved by your new setting. Type that into the app.
- Consider the hours saved per day. Think about how long you use that device per day. For example, how many hours a day is the TV is running? Type the number into the 'Hours of saving per day' entry.
- Type in your electricity cost or use the default option. You can grab this from your last power bill. It's the cents per kWh cost. We provided a sample in the app, which should be reasonably close to average come July 1 when power bills go up again. If you know yours exactly, type it in instead.
- Click the 'Calculate' button. Your entry will appear in the list, along with how much money you'll save per year. Repeat this process for other devices in your home and the app will keep a running total of the yearly amount you'll save. Easy.
TechLife's PowerSaver app