Computer energy use is the secret culprit behind outrageous electric bills at almost any modern home or business office. Most computers waste nearly half the power they draw, putting a strain on cooling fans and your wallet without doing anything for applications. Here are some simple tricks to save without killing your computer's capabilities. Phil Lindeman, www.freeshipping.org/blog
Check actual computer energy use: Give your system a once-over with a power meter that displays how much energy you're actually eating up. Then use this handy calculator to compare your computer energy usage, wattage and projected savings with more efficient machines: www.matthewb.id.au/media/Computer_ Energy_Calculator.html.
Upgrade: Computer energy conservation should be priority No. 1 when shopping for a new machine, peripherals or hardware. If all computers in the United States were Energy Star-certified, it would offset the greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 2 million cars.
Recycle: When you do ditch the old computer, don't forget to recycle, reduce or reuse. Check the Environmental Protection Agency's directory of local and national recycle programs (epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm), sell it on Craigslist or give it away on freecycle.com or to a nonprofit.
Ditch the screen saver: Screen savers make for pretty pictures but modern monitors consume more energy while running them.
Turn down the lights: The brightest setting on a monitor consumes twice as much power as the dimmest, so reduce the display brightness to save.
Shut off peripherals: When not in use, shut down such extras as printers, speakers and scanners.
Sleep on it: Use computer and monitor sleep modes to save around $50 a year in energy costs per computer. Set your monitor and hard drives to turn off after 15 minutes of inactivity and you'll reduce waste by almost 40 percent.
Fight phantom power: Try to plug all your electronics into one strip and switch it off when you're finished. If you want to avoid rebooting, put processors on a separate strip.
Wipe extra windows: Close rarely used applications to save energy and processing power.