Five tips for low-energy business computing

By Robert L. Mitchell, Computerworld |  Green IT

If all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star 4.0 specification, it would
cut power consumption by 27% over 2006 Energy Star levels, according to Marla
Sanchez, principal research associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
in Berkeley, Calif. That would save 115 billion kWh -- enough to power all of
Switzerland for nearly two years -- and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about
178 billion lbs.

To do your part to reduce some of those emissions -- and save your own company
some dough -- by following our five tips on saving resources and increasing
the efficiency of front-office equipment.

1. Do an energy audit

It's hard to know where you stand if you don't first measure the efficiency
of the equipment you have.

Fortunately, doing a power audit of ordinary office equipment is less complicated
than auditing your data center. A simple, inexpensive meter that fits between
the target device plug and the outlet can measure both current loads and cumulative
power consumption over time.

If you select a device with a typical usage pattern -- say, a laser printer
that gets an average-for-your-office workout each day -- you can multiply the
results across the total population of similar equipment to quickly estimate
total power consumption. From there, all you need to do is multiply use in kilowatt
hours by your local electricity rates and you've got a baseline for savings.

Meters range from the simple to the advanced. P3 International Corp.'s Kill
A Watt or Sea Sonic Electronics Co.'s Power Angel are both simple to use and
inexpensive.

More advanced units, such as the Watts Up Pro from Electronic Educational Devices
Inc., store data and include software for downloading and graphing that data
to show watts, volts and kilowatt-hour consumption over time, giving a more
accurate picture of power use.

When the facilities staff at Farmer's Almanac publisher Gieger Brothers in
Lewiston, Maine, did an initial power audit, it became "a driving force
behind initiatives to get power consumption down," says Joe Marshall, business
systems analyst and software specialist at the firm. The audit revealed computer
equipment was consuming nearly as much power after hours as it was during the
day.

After you've audited energy use, the next step is to audit your internal processes
to ensure that equipment is being used in the most energy-efficient manner,
says Robert Aldrich, a senior manager specializing in energy efficiency at Cisco
Systems Inc. And once you have that process audit -- in other words, once you
know how well you are doing human-behavior-wise -- the next step is to "kick
the tires on technology" by taking a look at utilities such as power management
tools, he says.

2. Adopt and enforce power management

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