Thu, Feb 05, 2009 - Page 14 News List

[TECHNOLOGY]Technological tips and tricks to spending less

Cut your computing costs, save the planet and stave off bankruptcy with power-saving innovations you never knew existed

By Jay Dougherty  /  DPA , WASHINGTON

VIEW THIS PAGE S ure, using a computer costs money. Electricity, printing, paper, and Internet access aren’t free. But they’re probably closer to a necessity for you than an option.

So the challenge is to find ways to save money while continuing to reap the productivity benefits that computing affords. Read on for some ideas.

Q: I’m using the Balanced power saving feature of Windows Vista, but I would like to know more precisely how much energy I would actually save by switching to Power Saver mode or customising a power scheme.

A: That’s a good question. Windows Vista, and other versions of Windows, don’t really tell you that much about the amount of energy you’ll save by using the various power saving schemes available in the Power Options section of the Control Panel. The more aggressive power saving modes simply turn off some components, such as the monitor and hard drives, sooner than the less aggressive modes. The idea is that a component that’s turned off or in sleep mode is using less power than one that’s not.

While that’s certainly true, you still have no idea of how much electricity you’re saving by turning off the monitor sooner than, say, the hard drives installed in your system.

Luckily, there’s a free utility called LocalCooling ( that will give you much greater insight into the amount of power that the components in your computer are drawing. Compatible with all versions of Windows, LocalCooling inspects the components in your PC and gives you a part-by-part breakdown of how much power each component is drawing.

On the computer I’m currently working on, for instance, LocalCooling correctly identified the monitor, hard drives, processor (CPU), and graphics card, and it told me exactly how much power each consumes. The monitor is by far the biggest power hog, coming in at 90 watts, while the CPU — an Intel Core2Duo E6850 — is second, sucking up 45 watts. The three hard drives draw a combined 45 watts, while the graphics card needs a relatively paltry 6 watts.

You can use this information either to set up a customised power scheme with Windows, or you can use LocalCooling’s Advanced tab to create your own component shutdown routine. LocalCooling, in other words, can replace the Windows power controls, and it will even shut down your entire computer after a time period that you specify.

To make you feel good not only about the money you’re saving but also about the reduced impact you’re having on the environment, LocalCooling keeps a running tally of how many trees and kilowatt hours of electricity you’re saving by employing the various power saving schemes. You can even use the utility to view how much energy you’re saving relative to other LocalCooling users.

Q: My kids are now required to type and print out their school papers, so we are using a lot more ink than we used to. I have heard that buying refill cartridges is a bad idea. Are there other ways to save on printing costs?

A: Yes. First, traditional black-and-white laser printers are much cheaper to run than inkjet printers. Typically, the cost per page of running a laser printer is about half that of the average inkjet printer due to the great difference in the cost of consumables — and that’s assuming that you print only in black with your inkjet. If you print using any color at all, the cost per page skyrockets over that of a black-and-white laser printer.

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