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Laptops vs. Desktops: Which Is More Energy-Efficient?

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If you use numerous computers at your business, the energy drain can really add up. Many business owners wonder if they can cut energy costs by switching from desktop computers to laptops. Before you make the swap, let's take a look at the energy use for each type of computer. 

Laptops vs. Desktops: Actual Energy Usage

Laptop computers are often more energy-efficient than desktops for one simple reason: they can run for a long time off battery power. Desktops, on the other hand, are always plugged in. While actual energy usage will vary based on your equipment and how you're using it, these quick stats will help you better understand how much energy your computers are using: 

  • Desktop computers use an average of 60 to 200 watts of electricity in order to run normally.
  • An uninterruptible power supply can significantly increase energy usage of your desktop model, but it's necessary in order to prevent system crashes and other significant issues during power outages.
  • Laptops use an average of 20 to 50 watts of electricity. This amount can be reduced by putting laptops in power save mode, where energy is used more efficiently. Power save mode may include a dimmer screen, decreased functions and other measures that help save electricity. 


In general, desktop computers are much less energy efficient than laptops. If you're hoping to substantially save on your energy bill over time, especially if you're purchasing new equipment for your business or considering upgrading your existing equipment, opting for laptops is one way to impact your energy usage every day. Across multiple stations, this difference can be considerable.

ENERGY STAR Ratings For Computers

Like most major appliances, the most energy-efficient computers on the market come with ENERGY STAR ratings. To receive an ENERGY STAR certification, computers must meet stringent requirements. These models offer considerable savings for offices that need them - an especially effective strategy for industries that need the full power of desktop computers. As of March 2016, when version 6.1 of ENERGY STAR guidelines for computers was released, there are several key factors that go into determining whether or not a computer will meet the necessary standards--including both the type of device and how efficiently it operates.

ENERGY STAR-certified machines must also meet certain performance standards to ensure they can produce the same level of computing power, including graphics and other key performance indicators. ENERGY STAR standards also address computers when they are not in use or in sleep mode. This allows you the assurance that your computer won't cause excessive energy drain whether someone is using it or not.  

Cutting Energy Expenses With Your Existing Desktop Computers

It's not always possible to create a completely new setup for your computers. In some cases, you may find your business needs the functionality offered by a desktop. Luckily, there are several ways you can save money with your existing desktop setup. 

  • Set your computer to "go to sleep" any time you're away from the keyboard for more than a few minutes. Starting it back up doesn't cost you any time, but it can reduce your energy usage substantially, especially if you don't use your computer often throughout the day. Using sleep settings consistently can save up to $35 per computer per year for your business.
  • Unless you work in an industry where quick graphics are a must, don't choose the most expensive video cards available on the market. Instead, opt for a lower-quality video card in each machine, since this is the computer component that typically sucks the most energy
  • Turn every machine in the building off completely at the end of the day. This includes monitors, towers and speakers. One easy way to do this? Attach everything to a power strip and make sure that it's turned off at the end of the business day. This can save a substantial amount of power, especially over weekends and vacations. 
  • Skip the screensavers. They don't offer any function that is useful to your computer will still using up energy.
  • Avoid turning your computer on and off repeatedly, especially if you're using a desktop. Booting up is one of the biggest energy draws for a desktop computer.


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  • Factors to Consider

    If you're ready to buy new computers, make a choice that will last long-term but also offers the best energy advantages for your business. Consider these key factors when you decide between laptops and desktops for your business:

    • What type of functionality do you actually need for your machines? Industries that need high-quality computing power may need stronger processors, better graphics cards and overall increased energy usage when compared to industries that need their computers to perform only basic tasks. 
    • Are there problems that could arise from computers that are easy to move - for example, increased theft? 
    • How much money do you have to invest in your computing equipment? Are laptops within your budget, or do you need a standard, inexpensive desktop model?
    • Are there functions throughout your business that could be completed on a tablet, rather than needing either a desktop or a laptop? Tablets offer the convenience of low cost combined with low energy usage, but they also lack many of the features of a standard computer.
    • Does the lower visibility on a standard laptop screen, which is often smaller than a desktop monitor, cause problems for some of your employees? Note that hooking up a larger screen to a laptop when it's in a workstation can increase the screen size while still offering reduced energy consumption.
    • What type of experience does your IT team have? Laptops may be more difficult to repair than desktops, since their components are contained more tightly and it's harder to work with them. 
    • What advantages will mobility offer to your employees? Because laptops go with your employees wherever they are, they can continue to work when they're on the go, and that can mean increased convenience for many of your employees. 

    For many businesses, computers are a necessary part of completing their daily business functions. By choosing the most energy-efficient machines possible, you can significantly reduce your energy use and watch your energy bill decrease along with it. Make sure your business carefully considers the benefits that laptops can offer as well as the actual needs of each employee when deciding on new equipment. 


    Learn more ways to save on your business energy bill with these 50 tips.

    Posted: November 16, 2017

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