Leave it on or turn it off?

Which saves more energy turning it off or leaving it on? At first it may seem obvious. Turning off a device saves more energy now. But, traditional wisdom tells us that turning a device on and off may shorten its life, causing hard drives to fail, hard buttons to break, and power supplies to become stressed out. When something breaks, doesn’t it cost more money to replace than the money you save in energy?

Of course, there are a lot of different situations. Not everything has a hard drive, for example. Solid state drives like the ones found in modern laptops and tablets use a tiny fraction of the power of hard drives, especially when they are inactive. Not everything requires the use of hard buttons, either.

Our opinion at The Solid Signal Blog is that it just doesn’t matter as much as it used to. First of all, most newer technology has the ability to enter a low-power state. Many laptops and tablets actually operate in this state by default. Even if you think that you are turning it off you’re not. If your device “starts up” in a second or less, it’s really never turning off.

Unlike the big hard drives of the past, today’s hard drives actually spin down by themselves when necessary. Consumer hard drives are designed to spin down and speed up, unlike older drives which were easily damaged during the spin down and spin up process.

Let’s look at DIRECTV DVRs for example. They go into a super-low-power mode when not in use, but they are capable of waking up as needed when recording. When they are in their standby mode, they use less power than a typical night light.

On the other side, computers are so durable that they generally become obsolete long before they break. Preserving a device in its pristine state may just not be necessary.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.