Easy Ways to Make Your Home Office More Energy EfficientJennifer Martinez
When Robert Mitchell, a correspondent for Computerworld, set out last year to reduce the energy consumption of his home office, he never imagined this is what he’d find.
“The result was shocking. Based on an audit of my own office’s energy use, I estimated that…my equipment added $112 to my annual electricity bill, or 8.5 percent of the total for my household. The computing equipment in my home office last year consumed 803 kilowatt-hours of power and directly resulted in the emission of 889 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
But here’s the kicker: As a result of changes Mitchell made to his equipment and work habits, he found that “Over the next year, I should consume 645 kilowatt-hours less power, shave $90 off my electric bill and reduce my share of utility CO2 emissions by 715 pounds. That’s an energy efficiency compromise I can live with.”
It may all sound like a small change in the grand scheme of things, but multiply Mitchell’s results by the estimated 36 million home offices just in the U.S. that use computer and communications equipment. That’s a lot of energy to be saved.
And by the way, saving energy doesn’t have to compromise the quality and performance of your equipment. In fact, it’s not hard to have the best of both worlds: high product performance and low energy use.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Measure your equipment.
You can’t become more energy efficient without knowing where you stand right now. An energy audit is something you can do yourself, with the help of an inexpensive metering device such as P3 International Corporation’s Kill A Watt meter. The device, which retails for $39.99, plugs into a power outlet and has its own outlet for attaching the device you want to monitor. Among other things, the device displays power draw in watts and tracks cumulative power consumption over time in kilowatt-hours.
2. Improve your power management with Energy Star.
Energy Star is a government program designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support the introduction and use of energy-efficient products. Energy Star’s new specifications for computers went into effect. Always look for the Energy Star label when purchasing electronic equipment but realize that energy costs are determined by your operating habits, which include things as simple as making sure your computer’s power management system is properly programmed and running. Just enabling the “sleep mode” on your desktop computer and monitor could save you about 900 kilowatt-hours per year in electricity, experts say. Consult Energy Star’s easy-to-follow instructions on how to enable power management systems for most PC operating systems.
3. Unplug it!
While engaging the power management system on your computer is a good start, unplugging your PC when it’s not in use is even better. That’s because most devices consume electricity even when they’re switched off.
4. Consider switching to a laptop.
Energy efficiency think tank Rocky Mountain Institute did the numbers: “Laptops are big energy savers compared to desktop computers . . . They draw from 14 to 25 watts while on, and most go down to 1 or 2 watts during sleep mode. Using a laptop could save anywhere from 40 to 100 watts, depending on the desktop unit it would replace.”
5. Make your next monitor an LCD.
Liquid Crystal Display screens typically use one-half to two-thirds less power than equally sized CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) screens. Energy Star-labeled LCD monitors can save even more. Upgrading from a CRT to an Energy Star-certified LCD monitor will also save you $10 to $30 per year in electricity costs. Some Energy Star partner companies have helpful Web-based calculators that can quickly compute the possible savings of buying an LCD monitor.
While buying more efficient electronic devices can save energy and money, changing how you actually use the equipment is more effective. By changing some of your patterns of use, such as unplugging your PC, you can often save more energy than if you replaced the item with a more efficient one.
As Computerworld’s Mitchell observed about his own experiment in “green” computing, “My biggest savings came from some simple changes. I replaced or eliminated inefficient equipment and changed how I configured and used it.”
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