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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.