We're supposed to turn off the lights when we leave the room. Turn off the TV when we're not watching it, and adjust the thermostat when we're not at home. Those things we can agree on, But when it comes to our computers...well, it's a tricky question.
It makes sense you'd turn it off when you log off and go to bed. We'd save energy because those discs wouldn't be spinning and using electricity. And computer discs spin constantly. But, by turning a computer on and off ever day could damage the computer AND be bad for the environment. Here's why:
Every time a computer is turned off, it has to be started again. Those discs drives and parts will start spinning again from a dead stop. And with most things mechanical, the wear and tear from start-ups cause a lot of things to go wrong.
For that reason, it's better for a computer hard drive to spin continuously than stopping and starting. Solid state hard drives don't spin, but other tiny components can also be damaged from stopping and starting frequently...even the on-off button.
The US Department of Energy suggests today's computers are designed to handle around 40-thousand on-off cycles before failure. You're not likely to hit that number for 5-7 years. But today's computers are built to last and they don't need to be upgraded as often as they used to.
Yes, keeping the computer on will consume electricity which will cost you money and affect the environment by burning fossil fuels.
According to the Department of Energy, turning off a computer and monitors when not being used will save around $30-50 a year.
But if we can make our computers last longer, we're helping the environment far more than the energy it takes to run them. A report from the EPC shows every day, there are 142,000 computers being thrown away, and a vast majority of those, as much as 80%, are thrown into landfills and incinerators because they're not easily recyclable. Plus, building a new computer requires over 500 fossil fuels.
Instead of completely shutting off the computer before you go to bed, it's better to put it in sleep or hibernation mode. If you're not going to use the computer for several days, shut it off, and do turn off the monitors when you're not using them. Screensavers, if you still use them, do not save energy. So shut them off.
There are people who take both sides of this issue since there's been no definitive long-term studies on whether turning off a computer leads to computer failure. We can all agree on this: If we make our computers last longer and keep them from being disposed of in landfills it is better for the environment.