Sunday, October 14, 2007

Does Your PC Choke on Coal While You are Asleep?

Computers around the country contribute to climate change even when nobody is using them.

Let's assume you use a standard desktop computer with an LCD flat screen. You work during the day and leave your computer on for 12 hours over night while you are not there. Sound familiar? This is a standard scenario for thousands of computers used in call centres and offices around Australia where the screens will go into stand-by mode and the computers remain turned on but sit idle for 12 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The scary part about this is that even though you may not be doing any work, your computer continues to use large amounts of energy. During the time you are away from your desk, your typical desktop computer uses almost 335 kilowatt hours of energy per year, just for sitting there, turned on but doing nothing.

In Australia, most electricity is produced by burning black coal. To keep just a single computer going over night doing nothing, you have to burn approximately 160 kg of black coal a year! This amount does not include the amount of coal burnt while you actually use the computer, it is solely for keeping the computer on over night.

Carbon emissions differ across countries depending on the energy source used. In Australia, your lonely computer will produce just under 350 kilograms of annual carbon dioxide emissions while you are asleep.

There are some obvious solutions. At home, you can turn your computer off at the wall before you go to sleep and subscribe to a 100 per cent green power option through your energy provider to reduce your computer's impact on the environment.

But what about work? If you cannot turn your computer off at the wall, at least use your computer's energy saving option. Appropriate power management (which will put your computer into sleep mode while idle) will save up to 95 per cent of the energy you would otherwise use. If your company has a policy of keeping computers on over night, talk to your management about it. The convenience of leaving your computer on is not a good enough reason to contribute to climate change.

Figures on coal requirements and carbon dioxide emissions were provided by the Australian Greenhouse Office following a personal inquiry.

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