Switch Your Computer Off


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Office Workers Who Leave Computers on All Night “Add to Global Warming”
By Martin Hickman
The Independent UK

Friday 06 October 2006

Don’t just switch off the television, switch off the computer too. Office workers who leave two million computers on every night are speeding up climate change, according to new research.

One in five white-collar workers told a national survey that they left their computers on at least three times a week, wasting more than £100m of electricity every year.

According to the PC Energy Report, power stations generating the electricity emit 200,000 tonnes of carbon a year – equivalent to the exhaust fumes of 120,000 4×4 cars. Switching off would save as much pollution as from all the cars in a city the size of Liverpool.

Evidence about the PC smog comes amid growing warnings that people in Britain should be more energy efficient. One million tonnes of carbon is pumped into the atmosphere each year by televisions, DVDs and other appliances left on standby in British living rooms, the Government revealed last year. Some products use almost as much power when in “sleep” mode as they do when in use.

Britain, which is estimated to emit about 150 million tonnes of carbon each year, needs to do far more to meet a pledge to cut carbon dioxide by 60 per cent by 2050. According to the PC Energy Report, written by the software company 1E and the National Energy Foundation, people do not realise that responsible PC use is as important as choosing a “green” car or fridge.

Nearly nine out of 10 (87 per cent) employees have never been asked to shut down their PC at night. As well as making employees aware of the environmental costs of not shutting down their PCs, specialist software can also activate power-save settings.

The research was based on interviews with 557 working adults carried out by ICM in September and a Tickbox.net internet poll of 1,233 adults in August and September. The findings suggested apathy was a major reason why employees did not switch off their PCs. Respondents said that switching off was too much hassle, that no one else did it, that it was not important, that they forgot, and that they did not want to lose their work.

Automatic power-save settings often fail to mitigate lack of employee action as only 30 per cent of office workers say hibernation settings are activated. That means at least 1.7 million PCs are habitually left on. A further 1.3 million are left on occasionally.

Ensuring all computers are off at night when not in use would contribute 10 per cent of the total energy savings expected of business under the Government’s climate change levy.

Sumir Karayi, 1E’s chief executive, said: “In a busy office environment it can be difficult to ensure everyone shuts down their computer before going home.” Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Mike Childs, argued legislation was “urgently needed to end the crazy waste” of energy from products.

He added: “Energy efficiency is one of the best and cheapest ways to meet our targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”

Other Offenders on Standby


Dishwashers left on at the end of their cycle consume 70 per cent of the power used when they are running.


The average television is left on standby for up to 17.5 hours a day. In 2004, Britain’s 62 million television sets consumed about 8 per cent of their energy consumption in standby mode.

Washing Machines

Washing machines use just under 20 per cent of normal requirement on standby.

Tumble Dryers

Tumble-dryers can use 38 per cent of normal power while waiting at the end of a cycle.


Turning unnecessary lights off would prevent 375,000 tons of CO2 emissions and save £55m in bills. Other appliances with high standby use are cordless telephones, radios, and stereos.

About Sabine Kurjo McNeill

I'm a mathematician and system analyst formerly at CERN in Geneva and became an event organiser, software designer, independent web publisher and online promoter of Open Justice. My most significant scientific contribution is www.smartknowledge.space
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