Cutting back on the power your PC uses is a pretty simple task. All it takes is a little consciousness and the resolve to change a few basic procedures. Here are some of the easiest ways to reduce your power consumption and increase energy efficiency.

1: Turn it off when you’re not using it

Okay, this is the easiest of all easy techniques. Turn the computer off when you’re not using it. Yes, you can use hibernate mode. Yes, the computer can go to sleep. But if you really, truly want to make sure there’s not a power trickle moving among those black wires connecting everything, power down and flip the power strip switch to off.

2: Unplug your peripherals

If you don’t have a power strip that manages the power for the whole system, unplug your peripherals — printer, scanner, speakers, what-have-you — when the system is not in use. If your peripherals are plugged into the wall and there’s no power strip to control the draw, they are pulling a small amount of power. Sure, it’s just a few watts, but you’d be amazed at how they can add up.

3: Manage your power plan

Your computer comes with a power management system you can set up to customize the way your computer draws power for processing. Windows 7 is particularly good in the power consciousness department, helping you balance power and performance by choosing the power management plan you want, managing the power your devices consume, and increasing the efficiency of how your system uses resources.

To display the Windows 7 power settings, click Start, display the Control Panel, and click Hardware And Sound. Choose Power Options and review the power plans. Click Change Plan Settings and adjust the display, sleep, and brightness settings to get into the nitty-gritty details (Figure A).

Figure A

You can select and customize your power management plan in Windows 7.

4: Get rid of your screen saver

We’ve always thought screen savers did something helpful. Isn’t the idea that having a screen saver keeps things moving on the screen to help ensure that whatever’s displayed there doesn’t “burn itself into the screen”? First, that kind of saving grace is no longer needed. And second, screen savers are more about looking at photos of your dog or your garden than they are about computer management. And third: Turn. The. Monitor. Off.

5: Keep an eye on your consumption

In addition to trying on these basic power-saving techniques, you can get a little help in making sure that you keep your power use low. A number of third party-vendors offer energy monitoring tools that help you track your power usage and plan for tasks and times of day. For example, CO2 Saver helps you reduce the amount of power your computer is using when it’s idle and lets you keep an eye on your overall carbon output.