How does one go about determining how much electricity is used for a particular device? Where can I find the wattage ratings, and how do I calculate the cost based on my current electricity rates found on my monthly bill?

Specifically, I have a computer that I am debating how to leave it on a regular basis. I wonder how much it costs in each of the following scenarios:

  1. Leave my computer in standby mode.
  2. Leave my computer in hibernate mode.
  3. Turn off my computer but the cord remains plugged.
  • 1
    More appropriate for superuser.com. It has nothing to do with home improvement. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 2:28
  • sorry, off topic my friend. better suited for the computer related stacks. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 12:51
  • 2
    edited the question to make it broader and on topic - i think the process of finding the power consumption and calculating them are certainly home improvement
    – mohlsen
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 13:12
  • 1
    See this question. diy.stackexchange.com/questions/1713/…
    – Tester101
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 13:45

3 Answers 3


Sounds like you could use one of these...


Then you could take this power saving feaver beyond the computer.

  • 1
    Yep... Kill A Watt meter is the most-used device for this purpose.
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 13:44
  • Yep, was about to post the same thing. Take different measurements for each scenario and plot it on a graph to see the difference over time. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 14:20
  • I have used the Kill A Watt for several applications and it works well for rough estimates.
    – SchwartzE
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 20:20
  • I used this to measure how much juice my fridge uses.
    – Michaelkay
    Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 14:06

This will vary depending on the computer in question and your local energy cost.

Here is a table listing power consumption of a range of PCs.

So, for example, let's take the worst case shown on the table. The IBM ThinkCentre M52 running Folding@Home with the monitor on pulled down an average of around 175 watts.

175 watts * 24 hours * 31 days = 130.2 kWh

Assuming a local energy cost of $0.15 / kWh would mean that it costs $19.53 per month to run a relatively inefficient computer at 80% CPU usage with the monitor on for 24 hours a day all month.

On the other hand, if the computer is drawing 1 watt while in the "off" state...

1 watt * 24 hours * 31 days = .7 kWh

At $0.15 / kWh, it will cost you approximately $0.11 / month to have your computer off (but still plugged in to the wall).

Of course, you will likely not find your specific setup in a table of power values (and even if you did, you cannot be sure that it will match your specific setup). If you want to find out the real numbers for your setup, you can purchase a power usage meter (e.g. Kill-a-watt). That info, along with your cost per kWh, will give you what you are looking for.

If you are looking for just a generalized answer, then my speculation would be:

  1. Leave my computer in standby mode. - Moderate
  2. Leave my computer in hibernate mode. - Very little
  3. Turn off my computer but the cord remains unplugged. - Very little

I've got a clamp-on Hall Effect Ammeter that I use with an A/C line splitter to do that. If you've got any electrician (or even computer nerd) friends, odds are good that they have one you could borrow. Or, you could pick up one of those "kill-a-watt" type devices at a local store.

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