Many businesses already know about energy-efficient laptop computers that can help extend battery life. But new hardware and software technologies are available for desktop PCs, too, helping to trim power consumption at office.
Many businesses today are looking for simple ways to go green -- whether it's to help the environment or to save a few bucks, or a bit of both -- but they aren't likely thinking about PC power management.
In fact, desktop PCs and monitors use up to 13 percent of all power consumed in office environments, and that number could be much higher when you factor in connected peripherals such as printers, copiers, and external hard drives. And you thought your lights and air conditioner were the culprits.
The good news is there are a few things a small or mid-sized business can do in order to cut down on energy consumption at the office, specifically relating to computers and monitors. Here are steps experts suggest that a business can take to better manage PC power usage.
Turn it off
The single biggest thing a company can do to lower power consumption is to turn the computer off when not in use, such as at night.
'This might sound like a no-brainer, but the reality is the vast majority of business PCs run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,' says Steve Kleynhans, vice president of the client platforms group at Gartner, a Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm.
'Companies are more concerned, and probably rightly so, about security and reliability than they are about saving some power -- they want to ensure those machines are up and waiting to have latest security fix -- but leaving them on all the time is extremely wasteful,' continues Kleynhans. 'But there are technologies to get around this today.'
Specifically, there are popular software tools provided by the likes of Verdiem and 1E Software Solutions, and innovative hardware including Intel's award-winning vPro technology.
'Traditionally, PCs are left on at night so your IT person can patch them without interrupting your work,' explains Josh Hilliker, Intel architect and community manager for Intel vPro technology. 'The beauty of vPro is you can now shut them down and wake them up, patch them and then shut them back down again -- remotely -- and you can set how and when you want to deploy this,' he explains.
Hilliker knows a few things about power management. He used to work for the Pacific Gas & Electric Company before joining Intel 14 years ago.
'Employing these solutions that let you power down PCs at night can cut your power consumption down by two-thirds,' confirms Kleynhans, 'which is huge.'
The cost savings can add up, too. 'You might not think you're saving much, such as $10 a month per machine, but that's more than a hundred dollars per year, and if you have a thousand machines in your organization, someone will notice.' 'Cost savings aside,' adds Kleynhans, 'it's just the right thing to do.'
Those hungry monitors, too
If you're not going to power down your PCs at night, at the very least make sure monitors are turned off when not in use. During working hours, have the monitors go into sleep mode when the PC has been left idle for a couple of minutes.
'Definitely get rid of screen savers -- they should be called ‘screen power wasters' -- such as those with fancy 3-D effects, flying toasters, or photo slideshows,' advises Kleynhans. 'You don't need them with LCD monitors since they don't suffer from [phosphor] burn-in compared to older CRT monitors.'
Another good idea is to buy monitors that have been certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star rating program. The program rates devices based on the amount of energy they consume.
Another tip is to unplug other PC peripherals when not in use, such as printers and external drives, and power them down at night, too. Meanwhile, wired mice and keyboard use up less power than wireless ones.
Love those laptops
If you're willing to make the switch, changing what kind of computer your employees use can make a serious difference in your business' energy consumption. 'Switching from desktops to laptops is a great move,' says Kleynhans.
By the time you include the tower and monitor, a midrange desktop consumes about 130 watts of power, while a high-end machine, perhaps used for editing or animation, might consume up to 500 watts of power.
Compare this to 'even the most power hungry' laptop computer, which consumes about 85 to 95 watts of power at most, explains Kleynhans. 'Laptops were designed out of the box to be energy efficient,' he says.