Someone asked me over lunch yesterday if I was worried about global warming. "Worried enough to ride my bike to work through the hills of Bryn Mawr!" was my response. The conversation eventually turned to how much energy computers used - should you turn them off to save energy (and thereby reduce the amount of CO2 being dumped into the atmosphere)? Their IT support had said to leave the machines on, on the grounds that the amount of energy used to restart them outweighs any savings from turning them off at night. I thought this was not true, and some back of the envelope calculations suggest shutting down from the night (even putting the machine to sleep is not sufficient) is 10 times more energy efficient than leaving it on.
Powering up my machine takes 3 minutes at full tilt. At 120 watts, this uses up about 22 kJ of energy. If I left it in sleep mode all night (at 3.5 watts), it uses 228 kJ. I save about 200 kJ of energy, if I shut it off for the night, rather than just put it to sleep. It comes to about 44 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. It's a drop in the bucket compared to the per capita amount of carbon dioxide produced in the US (19.8 metric tons in 2003) - about 0.1%.
If you want to check your own carbon footprint, the EPA has a calculator.
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