Responsibility and power go hand-in-hand

Power. It’s something that’s given only to those who are responsible enough to make use of it. It’s not to waste, it’s not to use in excess. It’s something precious that can’t be replaced, and once its gone it can’t be retrieved. With great power, comes great responsibility.

While Ben Parker might have been talking about a greater power than electricity, the same sentiments can be held to a resource that our population consumes without thinking. Electricity is in short supply, and what volts are left are sold to other countries to keep Eskom off the bottom line. There’s always an energy crisis, but this one is much more important – if we overuse our electricity supply, more resources have to be pumped into those atmosphere-destroying coal plants. If our energy crisis is to be handled efficiently, the public must take steps to save energy wherever they can. Here’s what you can do to help.

Black uses less power

Pixels only use power when they have to display any colour other than black. It’s long been proven that Google’s custom search provider, Blackle, saves over 22,000 megawatts worldwide with every hour of usage. The less white there is on your screen, the less energy it consumes keeping those pixels lighted. Nokia S60 ver.5 owners will already agree with this idea, seeing as the touch-screen Symbian smartphones all use a standard black theme to keep power consumption super-low. So change your wallpaper to something that includes a lot of black, and use deeper colours for your theme and web browser.

It’s better for your eyes as well.

Switch to LED

LED screens feature individual LEDs to provide backlighting to pixels on the screen. The benefit to this is superior blacks because there is no backlight bleed from your usual LCD designs, and a far lower power consumption and heat output. Compared to a completely white pixel, a completely black pixel uses roughly 15 times less power. It’s because of that staggering power-saving ability of LEDs that cellphone manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia, and many others are switching to OLED screens.

Naturally, because Nokia’s phones come with the default black Symbian theme, power savings on those phones when using an LED screen are much more apparent compared to a Samsung Wave which quite literally bleeds with colour and brightness. Microsoft is also one of those companies following Nokia’s  example by using a standard black theme in Windows Phone 7, along with OLED screens and the power-sipping Qualcomm processors.

Having a phone that uses less power means less recharges from the wall socket, and less energy consumption overall. The benefits? Lowered stress on the environment, and measurable money savings for you. How can you say no to this? [Here’s a tip from your friendly neighbourhood editor: get a car charger for your phone. I’ve been only charging my phone in my car and I can’t remember the last time I plugged in my phone to a wall charger – ed].


Undervolting has become a habit for overclockers who seek the perfect balance between speed and energy efficiency. For instance, my Athlon X2 dual-core runs at a default of 1.28v for the CPU. It’s quite possible to run the chip at full speed with only 1.05v available, again producing measurable benefits to your pocket. Googling various processors will return a few threads dedicated to undervolting, and the limits at which those chips operate.

Graphics cards and RAM can be undervolted, too, for additional savings. ASUS’s CuCore graphics cards can be undervolted using their overclocking software provided with the cards.

Change your PSU

It goes without saying that an efficient PSU will also produce significant power and heat savings if used correctly. Choosing the correct PSU for your PC will ensure you have enough headroom for upgrades and allow it to operate at maximum efficiency.

For example, an Athlon X3 CPU, an AMD HD5770 GPU, 880GM motherboard, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, two 1TB hard drives, 1DVD drive and up to 4 fans can easily run off Corsair’s CX430 power supply. There’s about 100watts spare headroom, and your PSU should be running at 80% efficiency all the time. Don’t take chances and think you can do this with a budget PSU; most name brands with an 80Plus certificate got that for one reason only – superior quality and performance. Choosing anything less is suicide, especially for a high-end rig.

Take a good look at your adapters

Your power adapters seem innocent enough, but if it’s not insulated properly you can be on the receiving end of a multitude of problems, least of which is interference. A good multi-plug adapter that features a surge protection unit usually also has a good efficiency when delivering power to your PC. It’s the most overlooked part of your rig, but if you are asking an adapter for more than it can reasonably supply, it’ll not only blow later on but also release a lot of power as heat. A good name-brand adapter (Ellies, for example) with a top power draw of 16A at ~250 is recommended for any gamer or PC user who wants to avoid overloading the adapter.

Samsung users may be familiar with this as the standard phone charger heats up a lot after an hour or so of use. This is because it’s not efficient in any way, shape, or form, and usually uses a lot more power than it should. It’s best to ditch the adapter and go for a third-party one from a reputable supplier. I switched out mine and not only did my battery charge faster, it uses about 10watts less power, and always felt cool to the touch.

Also, always invest in power cables for your PC that have a working ground. The ground works to draw excess electricity away from your PC, and can help in your bid to save the world through sensible power use. It might just make all the difference to your bank account at the end of the month.

Not ideal.