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Accessing the Internet uses electricity—and electricity costs money. Device owners browse online at an average of three hours and forty-five minutes per day: If you browse as often as most, the utility bill can quickly increase.
There are ways to leverage heavy Internet usage, of course, but these range from ‘inconvenient’ to ‘completely useless’: When we have to disconnect other devices or even kitchen appliances, the costs outweigh the benefits.
But what about the Internet’s electric consumption, itself? Is your browsing lifestyle costing more, or is streaming Netflix the same, electricity-wise, as scrolling through Google? If your Internet sessions really do matter when it comes time to pay the electric bill, how can we reduce the power consumption without restricting our online sessions?
The Quick Answer
When it comes to the utility bill, your browsing habits matter; this expands beyond the expenses associated with Internet service providers, which average roughly $72 per month. For those without a router, plugging into a new outlet costs even more—simple enough.
If you’re streaming Netflix or Hulu, however, your data consumption will make your ISP device work harder, longer, and in a way that is not electrically optimized. Indeed, this will cost some extra cash when a home’s electric consumption is considered. If your router isn’t meant to achieve higher speeds, the costs increase even more.
Will Using a VPN Bypass This?
One of the first things that come to mind when sparing one’s router from data overloads, and electric bill costs, is using a VPN. It certainly makes sense: If we reroute your IP address, bypassing our local server, we’ll reduce the electricity count our data accrues. Wouldn’t this work?
The Answer, In Most Cases, Is No
Even if you use a trustworthy VPN to reroute your IP address, the data you spend on downloads, browsing, and using social media still counts towards your router’s data load. It also counts towards your Internet plan: If you don’t have a plan with unlimited data, all consumed data counts towards your plan’s cap. This is because data traffic passes through your Internet service provider, and your router, before reaching your device.
This is in most cases, however. There are ways to use a VPN with conservative browsing habits in general, lowering your electric bill all the same. Let’s look at the options.
Option One: Find a Faster Connection
When it comes to browsing, the time you spend loading pages is directly related to the energy you consume. If you have a slow Internet connection due to your local server, however, you’re in luck: Using a VPN server with higher speeds will reduce the browsing time—therefore lowering the electric bill a little.
Option Two: Change the Way Your Device Sleeps
A lot of us let our computers ‘idle’ while they’re still connected to the Internet. What they don’t realize, however, is that even a computer on standby expends energy. While using a VPN on your device won’t necessarily change this—because, again, data electric costs won’t change—you can try to leverage the overall consumption with a setting change.
Specifically, you can weigh the pros and cons of changing the way your device idles—or doesn’t get the change to idle at all. While an idling, webpage-connected computer still increases electric costs, turning your device on and off also costs energy. This won’t work with every computer, but opting to let your device idle—rather than turning it off, if you currently do so—can cost less money in the long run.
Turning a computer on is a little like starting a car: The initial startup requires some extra power—and a little more machine legwork. Because of this, you are choosing to avoid the energy quick-kick of booting up can save some extra change. The VPN can aid the process, here, by making your device’s idling time safer. If you currently avoid data-connected idling due to passive costs, a VPN just might change the equation.
However, it should be noted that a VPN is a background program: It, too, spends a little energy when idling. So, again, this trick might not work for every device—and with every person’s computer use habits. For some, though, it’s a decent option to consider.
Option Three: Use a Mobile VPN
Mobile devices expend less data-related energy costs than desktop computers, in general. They simply have lower energy requirements—and they have far fewer background processes running. If you’re torn between browsing and a lower energy bill, you can get the best of both worlds by sticking to the smartphone.
Like Option Two, this trick won’t be useful to everyone—but if you typically avoid mobile browsing due to security reasons, a VPN can change the status quo. Many people stick to desktop-based Internet consumption because of their security options—and because leaving a smartphone connected introduces new dangers in terms of instant hotspot and Wi-Fi network connections.
The Data Decision: Optimizing Your Energy Usage
It can sometimes be easier to avoid all mobile-based Wi-Fi trouble, in general, by skipping the smartphone browsing. By using a VPN, however, you needn’t worry about these dangers. As another benefit, a VPN-connected smartphone won’t expend as much energy running background tasks—as VPN apps are much more lightweight than their desktop-bound siblings.
In any event, deciding to use a trustworthy VPN can shave off some utility bill bucks. By double-checking your data consumption, balancing the energy costs, and using a VPN’s full spectrum of settings, even heavy Internet usage can carry a lower price tag.