Leaner, greener desktops - five easy steps

IT organisations have begun to make significant changes to how their data centres are powered and cooled to save energy costs. But many IT departments haven't yet looked at saving energy throughout the rest of their companies' IT infrastructures.


Data centres use more power per square foot than any other part of the IT e state but, as a percentage of total power consumption, office equipment is the place where the most gains can be made.

"Office equipment has become more highly featured and powerful than ever before, but there's an energy cost to that," says Katherine Kaplan, who manages the US Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star consumer electronics and IT initiatives.

"If you look at overall power consumption, you're seeing almost double for computers and monitors than for data centres," says Jon Weisblatt, senior product manager of the power and cooling initiative at Dell Inc.

Verizon Wireless is one company that's saving plenty of green by going green. Earlier this year, the wireless carrier deployed 1E's NightWatchman power management software. This is designed to put desktop computers and monitors in offices, stores and call centers into power-saving mode after a period of inactivity, overriding any personal settings.

Another 1E product, SMSWakeUp, can "wake up" those machines to deliver patches and updates after-hours and then shut them down again when the process is complete. "It saved us [money] just turning computers on and off on demand," says CIO Ajay Waghray.

Waghray also replaced 7,000 PCs in 10 Verizon call centers with power-sipping Sun Ray thin clients from Sun Microsystems Inc. and began a companywide migration to LCD monitors.

The managed thin clients use 30% less energy than the non-managed PCs, says Waghray. He estimates that the power management and thin client initiatives combined have decreased the cost of front-office power consumption by US$900,000 annually.

To Waghray, going green is good business. The projects were good for customer service - off-hours patching and the more reliable thin clients improved uptime and reduced trouble-ticket volumes by 50%. "To make things more efficient, simple and customer-focused, green becomes a very important factor," he says.

There were an estimated 900 million desktops in use worldwide in 2006, according to analyst firm IDC. Even if all of those units were Energy Star 2006-compliant, they would still consume 426 billion kilowatt-hours of power annually.

If all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star 4.0 specification, power consumption would be 27% lower than it would be under the 2006 guidelines, according to Marla Sanchez, principal research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US. That would save enough energy to power all of Switzerland for nearly two years and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 178 billion pounds.

Do you want to reduce some of those emissions -- and save a lot of money in the process? Here are five tips on saving resources and increasing the efficiency of front-office equipment.

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 easy. A simple, inexpensive meter that fits between the target device plug and the outlet can measure current loads and cumulative power consumption.

If you select a device with a usage pattern that's typical for your office, you can multiply the results across the entire 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 include basic models such as P3 International's Kill A Watt or Sea Sonic Electronics's Power Angel, and more-advanced units like the Watts Up Pro from Electronic Educational Devices. Watts Up Pro stores data and includes software for graphing that data to show watts, volts and kilowatt-hour consumption over time.

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