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Taking a Break? Turn Off the PC: Screen Savers Are No Energy Savers

Power Lines: California's energy crisis is hitting home. Electric bills are rising, and people are looking for ways to cut consumption and costs. This is the sixth in a series of energy-saving tips.

February 17, 2001|LYNN O'DELL

Flying toasters and exploding fireworks don't save energy, although that's what most computer users think screen savers do. Some screen savers use as much energy as word processing.

Energy use in office equipment is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity consumption in U.S. homes and businesses, according to the federal government.

To save watts, turn computers off if you won't be using them for at least 30 minutes, said Jon Koomey, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That cuts the system's power use almost in half.

The myth that it's better to leave computers running than to turn them on and off is just that. It was true in the days of mainframes, but not today. Leaving the power on keeps the hard disk spinning and shortens the useful life of the computer, Koomey said.

A typical desktop computer and monitor draw 130 to 150 watts when active; a laptop about 20 watts. New liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors use about one-third the energy of cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors but cost two or three times as much.

If you're in the market for a new computer system, your power management troubles are over. New Energy Star specifications call for automatic "sleep" modes that power computers down to less than 15 watts and monitors down to 10 watts after a period of inactivity.

For more information, visit these Web sites:

* Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at and *, then go to No-Regrets Remodeling section.

* Energy Star office equipment,

* Send your questions or suggestions regarding energy use to Home Design, Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; or send e-mail to Please include your name and phone number.

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