As any follower of George W Bush will tell you, the problem with being ‘green’ is that it costs money. It takes too much effort, too much time and too much of our hard-earned cash. But in our special report this month – entitled ‘Electric Shock!’ for good reason – we are more interested in how easy it is to be green and to save money. Not just a little money, but lots of it.
To get to grips with the amount it is possible to save, it is easiest to consider the humble light bulb. Each conventional bulb draws about 60W of electricity, so if I leave one on in my living room for an hour that’s 60 watt-hours consumed. If I leave it on from 5pm to 11pm, I’m directly responsible for consuming 300 watt-hours – otherwise known as 0.3kWh, or 0.3 units on my electricity bill.
It does not sound like much: most electricity companies charge around 10p per unit, meaning a sum total of 3p is added to my bill. But that’s per day. Multiply that by seven days, then by 52 weeks, and my annual bill for that single bulb is £10.92. Then multiply that by the number of light bulbs in my house. Suddenly, an extra few pounds for an energy-efficient bulb does not sound so bad.
But those figures are nothing. My old-fashioned light bulb is a picture of innocent virtue against the guzzler that is a PC: the prime suspect in our special report. Your friendly PC is probably drawing somewhere between 100W and 200W, depending on the tasks you are asking it to perform. If you just leave it idling away, it could be costing you £100 per year to run; bad enough. But if you are helping in the search for aliens via SETI@home then the cost leaps up to £175, due to the extra electricity needed to power the processor.
This alone is cause for concern, but our innocent-looking PC is not sitting there all on its own. It is kept company by a monitor, a printer of some description, a set of speakers, and who knows what else: a scanner, a second monitor, an MFD. All these items draw current with varying rates of efficiency, with CRT monitors being particular culprits.
That’s why, to mark the launch of our ‘Switch IT Off’ campaign, we have teamed up with OneClickPower to offer its power strip for £25 rather than £30 – just plug your PC or notebook into the mains socket, and when you switch off the computer all the peripherals are automatically switched off too.
It is this sort of power-saving action that forms the core of the campaign. We are not trying to make everyone feel guilty, but to help save money. There are a huge number of ways you can do this too: we discover that a single BIOS tweak can cut an electricity bill by £75 per year. And that buying a TFT screen to replace a CRT can pay for itself within five years.
So before you read anything else this month, take a look at our feature: it could save you money, and if we help to minimise damage to the environment then all the better.