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Report: Leaving the PC On Loses Money

A report by 1E says that businesses and general consumers save money by shutting down the PC when not in use. Unfortunately, tech-savvy consumers know better.

There's nothing like a good report to say just how terrible and wasteful consumers are, especially when it comes to money and the environment. 1E is the latest firm to do so, publishing its PC Energy Report 2009 spanning the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany (pdf). The company opens up the report to explain its purpose: addressing the issue of energy waste caused by leaving PCs on overnight. While that's all good and admirable--after all, saving energy saves a few dollar signs--there's a good reason why most PCs remain on: to extend their life.

According to a separate survey conducted by 1E back in 2008, 50 percent of employed U.S. adults using PCs at work generally do not shut them down at the end of the day. Naturally, the company doesn't say who was questioned, or how many participants were actually in the survey, however 1E concludes--based on the data collected by this survey--that companies across the U.S. are wasting a whopping $2.8 billion, and even emitting 20 million tons of carbon dioxide simply because PCs are shut down overnight.

"This figure is based on a conservative estimate of 14.6 hours for the overnight period, and 48 hours on the weekend," the company said. "Under this scenario, a single U.S. company with 10,000 PCs wastes more than $260,000 annually and generates 1,871 tons of carbon dioxide emissions."

The company also discovered that it's the Americans who are wasteful power hogs. According to their research, European users are better at saving energy. 56 percent of employees in the UK and Germany actually shut down the PCs overnight. Those who do not are costing employers 285,000 Euros and 168,000 Pounds each year respectively, especially within companies housing 10,000 PCs or more.

But there is a rainbow at the end of the tunnel: more people actually power down their PCs at home than they do at work. In the UK, 78 percent turn off the home PC, and in Germany, 78 percent do the same. However, those wasteful power hungry Americans fall at the back of the line, with 63 percent of the population turning off the PC at home. Additionally, a vast majority of employed adults who use a PC at work also do so at home (97 percent in the U.S., 96 percent in the UK, 97 percent in Germany).

"If all of the world's 1 billion PCs were powered down for just one night, it would save enough energy to light up New York City's Empire State Building--inside and out--for more than 30 years," claims the company.

That would certainly be an interesting experiment: have the nation's PCs shut down for one night--call it PC Shutoff Day or something--and see exactly how much power is saved in the process. However, many hardcore PC builders and repair shops will say that turning off the PC on a regular basis is unhealthy for the computer. When powered, the motherboard circuitry expands, and thus contracts when the PC shuts down. The constant expand/contract method on a daily basis will eventually blow the motherboard altogether. With that said, business owners and consumers must weigh the differences accordingly: the money saved by shutting down the PC versus the cost of repairing or replacing the said PC. There's certainly no conspiracy theory to feed the global market for IT power management.

"Employers today have a golden opportunity to demonstrate environmental and financially astute thought leadership by taking a few simple, energy-saving measures, such as setting up processes to power down PCs," said 1E chief executive officer Sumir Karayi. "Every day that passes is a lost opportunity to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. We hope you'll act now to take this opportunity to make a difference."

So what's the best option then? Leave the computer running until it eventually burns itself out? Or turn off the PC every night--or for long periods of inactivity--and save not only energy, but a little bit of money. That's a good debate that will probably never reach a resolution.

  • Judguh
    At my company, we always leave our PC's on overnight mainly because we have patches and other updates that are run and installed along with antivirus updates, file backups, etc...
    Reply
  • deltatux
    Odd, from what I know, leaving your systems on 24/7 hurts the system through heat generation and system throttling. I've been working with computers for 75% of my life and all these systems have a good 7 years lifespan so, I don't see why people say to leave your system on 24/7. Even if, you'll end up spending more money on energy than on a new system throughout its whole lifetime and its damaging for the environment so best to turn off your systems regardless if you believe leaving your system on 24/7 is a better idea.
    Reply
  • haricotvert
    "Extending the life of your PC" is a horrible argument for not turning it off when not in use. We don't leave our cars running all day long, even though turning them off and on does the exact same sort of expand-contract damage to the engine.

    Out of all of the PCs I've owned or used at work - both pre-built and those I built myself - none have experienced motherboard failure as a result of turning them off at night and on during the day. Hell, none of the motherboards in them went out to begin with.

    Keep in mind most retail motherboards have a 3-year warranty anyways - if it goes bad, get it replaced! If you can't get 3 years out of your motherboard even when turning it off and on every day, then there's something else wrong with your system.
    Reply
  • haricotvert
    "Extending the life of your PC" is a horrible argument for not turning it off when not in use. We don't leave our cars running all day long, even though turning them off and on does the exact same sort of expand-contract damage to the engine.

    Out of all of the PCs I've owned or used at work - both pre-built and those I built myself - none have experienced motherboard failure as a result of turning them off at night and on during the day. Hell, none of the motherboards in them went out to begin with.

    Keep in mind most retail motherboards have a 3-year warranty anyways - if it goes bad, get it replaced! If you can't get 3 years out of your motherboard even when turning it off and on every day, then there's something else wrong with your system.
    Reply
  • grieve
    We leave all out units on @ night so we can push down patches with Patchlink..

    I have discussed turning the machines off at night with our IT Director to save money, but nothing will come of it I’m sure. We run patches very rarely (1 every 2 months) and programs like anti-virus pull from the server…

    There is just no reason to leave 800 units running 24/7. We do turn the lights out when we go home….
    Reply
  • DXRick
    I always turn my home PC off at bedtime. After 3 years of doing this, it is still going strong. It will (or already has) become obsolete long before it dies.
    Reply
  • ph3412b07
    I'm actually incredibly skeptical at any PC builder that thinks turning off their computer decreases its life cycle significantly. With today's PCB manufacturing processes the mobo is surely not going to be the first to fail. As an avid overclocker I put my rigs through thousands on/off power cycles needlessly at high temp/volts. Thats because components can go through upwards of 40,000 on/off cycles with no effect nowadays. Never had any component fail, except for a hard disk. Leaving a PC on keeps hard disks spinning with no purpose, creates excess heat stress, wear, etc.
    Reply
  • grieve
    haricotvertKeep in mind most retail motherboards have a 3-year warranty anyways - if it goes bad, get it replaced!When I have a hardware issue in our business environment I get the unit replaced by Lenovo, QUICK! Service agreements pretty much cover everything.

    I just pull a new laptop/Desktop from the back, image it and set up the user locally. Then I secure data disposal the HDD on the broken unit and ship to Lenovo. They send a replacement unit whenever….

    Reply
  • coopdog
    How much would it cO2 would be created by manufacturing a new system and shipping it to you when the old dies early? More or less than that single system creates while being left on?
    Reply
  • coopdog
    How much co2 will be created by manufacturing and shipping a new system due to your old one dieing early?
    Reply