What To Look For When Buying Energy Star Computers
During the last Census, it was determined that 55% of American homes had a computer. Of course, this data is fairly old by now so chances are pretty high that this percentage is going to be significantly higher once 2010’s Census data is counted.
Instead, just look around you. Chances are, your home has at least one computer. Your child’s school probably has several in every classroom. And chances are that you use a computer at work. They’re everywhere.
Today’s computers are used 3-5 years, on average, before they’re updated for a newer model. This means that we’re regularly buying computers, and that we need to recycle our old ones.
Energy Star estimates that if every computer sold was an Energy Star qualified model, we’d save over $2 billion per year in energy costs. So, what should you look for when buying an Energy Star computer? Let’s take a look…
Energy Star Savings
Our computers are turned on almost all day, and sometimes long into the night. This is why it’s so important that we choose an energy efficient computer.
Energy Star computers typically use 30% to 60% less energy than their non-rated counterparts. This can make a dramatic difference day in and day out!
Costs to Look At
Energy Star computers typically cost the same as non-rated models. But because they use less energy over the long-term, they’ll cost you less to run.
You can see a list of qualified Energy Star computers by clicking on this link. Once this page opens, look at the sidebar on the right. You’ll see downloadable pdf documents for Energy Star desktops, monitors, and laptop computers.
Tip: Turning on a screen saver is not the same as using the power-saving “sleep” mode. The U.S. Department of Energy says that screen savers often use more energy than when the computer is in normal “work” mode. Make sure you use the “sleep” mode when you’re not using your computer.
What Size and Type?
It’s important to only get the size you need when it comes to shopping for computers. Why?
Well, all those extra bells and whistles (and that huge screen!) use energy. Cornell University estimates that the average desktop computer increases its energy needs by 35-45% every two years. This means that as our computers get more powerful and are forced to do more tasks, they use more energy.
It’s also important to cut down on your need for peripherals. Peripherals are things like our external hard drives, printers, a larger LCD screen, etc. Cornell states that these extras can account for 10% or more of your computer’s energy use.
If you can, go with a laptop. According to the BBC, laptops require only 1/3 the energy that a desktop does.
TIP: Turn off your screen when you’re not using it! The EPA estimates that U.S. companies waste over $1 billion a year in wasted energy from computer monitors that are turned on needlessly.
How to Recycle Your Old Computer
It’s extremely important that once you’ve purchased a new computer that you recycle your old model.
Computer are full of dangerous heavy metals, carcinogens, and toxic chemicals which need to be safely and properly treated and recycled. But, not all recycling companies are ethical and legit.
To save costs (and earn more money) many “recycling” companies will illegally ship your electronics off to third-world companies for disposal. These electronics are buried in landfills, shredded, or even burned, which puts enormous amounts of toxic gasses in the atmosphere.
If you want to make sure your computer is ethically and legally recycled, then start by asking questions. Reputable recyclers should be able to tell you exactly where your hardware is going.
You can also choose an ethical recycler from the Basel Action Network (BAN). The BAN is a non-profit that works to monitor ethical e-waste recycling. Choosing a recycler from their E-Stewards list gives you peace of mind; every recycler on this list will recycle your computer in an environmentally-friendly and ethical manner.
You can also find local recyclers by using Earth911.com.
Your Next Step…
So, what do you need to do next?
- Start by deciding if you could get by with a laptop. Again, laptops run on 1/3 the energy of a desktop. Plus, they’re mobile!
- Examine the list of Energy Star laptops. Once you’ve chosen a few models you’re interested in, research them online to find the best choice for you.
- Next, decide how you want to recycle your old machine. Choose an ethical recycler and make sure that your old machine won’t be scrapped or burned in a third-world country.