I use my laptop for regular use, and I use my desktop as a server -- Web server, FTP server, SVN server, data backup, etc.
I want to leave the desktop always on because I never know when I'll need the server services, but I don't want to waste the electricity when I'm not using it. Ideally, I'd like it to go into standby after 15 min or so of inactivity, and when a network request comes in, and then it resumes.
Depening on what CPU you have in the desktop, and how new the machine is, you might want to look into enabling EIST or Cool 'n' Quiet. Both of these technologies automatically downclock the CPU when it's not being used to reduce the power it draws.
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Standby is a waste of energy as your still using electricity and then the wake up will often lead to a time out.
As stated, the amount of juice your system draws on is proportional to the CPU cycles, under load the demand on the PSU goes up but when idle the demand drops.
This is how Laptop battery's get run down quickly when off the grid.
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