Worried about electricity? Sleep on it.

Blog posted by Jonathan Elliott

I've had an ongoing "debate" with my wife for some time about who wastes more electricity. Her habit is to leave the lights on, mine is to leave the computer on, and we've gone back and forth on this matter about who's habit is worse. Now, only recently did I ever take the time to investigate this, to settle once and for all the most offending culprit.

According to Michael Bluejay, leaving my laptop on in active mode could use up to as much as a 45 watt lightbulb, and leaving a desktop on could use up to as much as four or five 60 watt bulbs. So in theory, my usage of the laptop has worked in my favor these last few months (and I won't speak of how many years before that I was using my desktop, leaving it on all of the time).

But for those of you who are especially concerned, as we all should be, with this very prevalent and constant use of energy, there is a great little feature called the "sleep" mode. In actuality, there are several modes to this, depending on which OS, or even which version of windows you are running. Prior to Windows Vista, you could "standby", or go into full-on "hibernate". The problem with these was that the first method was often unreliable and still used some electricity, and the second method would cause rather serious hard drive fragmentation over time.

Well, Windows finally got on the right track (yes, Mac has been heading in the right direction for a while, I have to give them credit for that), and in Vista has combined the speed of standby, with more reliability, and the low power usage of hibernate. In the new "sleep" mode, the current state is written to RAM (and only if desired to the hard drive), and the only electricty then used is what it takes to keep the RAM powered enough to store that memory. This uses only 1 - 6 watts, a scarce fraction of what it used to.

While this is still wasted energy, it is a nice compromise for those of us who absolutely refuse to take the time every day to reboot the computer. It is a baby-step, if you will. A step in the direction of energy conservation, while losing us no time, since the startup from "sleep" mode is almost instantaneous.