How many times have you been on your computer and then had the phone ring? You go out of the room to answer it, and when you come back you’ve left the computer and monitor on pointlessly for half an hour.
PecoBoo, developed by VeryPC, is an attempt to try and solve that problem. It utilises your webcam and uses face recognition to work out whether you are sitting at your computer. If it can’t find a person for a predetermined amount of time, it will automatically turn off your monitor. However the webcam and software stays on – so as soon as it notices that you have got back to your PC, it switches your monitor back on.
I downloaded the 30 day trial and gave the software a spin. I’m relatively impressed – it takes a bit of fiddling to stop it turning off your monitor when you are still at the system. I found that if you set the idle time to less than about 20 seconds you end up switching your monitor off if you hold your head still – and if you turn your monitor on and off too much you’ll not only end up using more energy than just using it normally, but you’ll also considerably shorten it’s life. It’s also extremely irritating!
Nevertheless, the software did a good job and I do think the face recognition technique is very clever.
To be honest though, the fact that it isn’t free puts me off. To earn back the £9.99 I’d spent in buying the software from turning my monitor off, I’d have to use it for months – which defeats the point a bit. It also poses the question of how much energy does your webcam use if you’re having that on whenever your PC is on.
Overall, if you’re a green geek – buy it and it will save valuable energy utilising extended breaks from the PC. However, for the average user, this will be of little interest.
Yes, I know – how many times have you been told that turning your computer monitor off standby saves tonnes and tonnes of energy? It is a fact though – the amount of energy the average home wastes yearly because of gadgetry on standby is scary!
So, here are a few tips to keep your electricity bill down just a little…
- Guess what I’m going to say? Yes, turn off your computer at the wall! Leaving your computer and monitor on standby is a huge waste of power! Shut down (or hibernate) your computer and turn it off at the wall, instead of putting it into standby. Also, if your speakers run from the mains, turn them off too when they aren’t in use. Even if they aren’t producing sound, they still pull power from the plug! In addition, consider turning your printer and scanner off at the wall! It doesn’t need to be on if you aren’t using it.
- Only charge your gadgets when they need to be. If the battery on your iPod or mobile phone is only half empty, don’t waste energy recharging it for the sake of it. Now, this does go with a little thought – don’t run your batteries totally flat as this sometimes reduces battery life in the long term. But basically, if it doesn’t need charging, don’t bother.
- Only charge your gadgets until they are fully charged. Once they are charged, unplug them. Many modern devices (such as newer Nokia phones) will tell you when they are ready to be unplugged, so make sure you unplug them. It is a waste of energy if you’ve got your device plugged in when it has a full battery, and it can often damage batteries if you charge them for too long.
- Turn off your router when it isn’t going to be used. If you’re going to be away for the weekend or you wont be using the computer for a while, turn gadgets such as your broadband router off. They don’t use much electricity but when they are on 24/7 the cost does build up. Routers are designed to be turned off now and then so don’t be afraid to – it should remember all of your settings and just reconnect when you plug it back in. If you have NAS (network attached storage), turn that off as well if you don’t need to use it.
- Turn appliances off at the socket. It might seem silly, but turning appliances such as your cooker, dishwasher or washing machine off at the socket when not in use might well save you a bit of electricity. With modern appliances it is so easy to leave them on standby, but that does use a small amount of electricity. Obviously don’t turn your fridge off if it has food in it!
There you go – 5 tips to save energy in any modern home. It might only knock a tenner or so of your energy bill, but in today’s economical world any savings count!