Verizon has saved more than $5 million. Yale University stands to put away $400,000 annually. Washington Mutual saves $3 million each year. How did these organizations do it? Simple. They shut off their computers.
It’s an often-forgot-about option to save big on energy, so it’s time to look at computer power management software and how it can help you cut back. Power management software simplifies the implementation of computer power management policies across PC networks. The software can monitor how long PCs stay on while inactive, PC shutdown time, and when PCs need to power up for updates.
To put things in perspective, computers and monitors are the largest single source of plug load power consumption in most office buildings. Almost half of all employees who use computers don’t shut them down at the end of the day, according to 1E, a provider of power management software. In the United States, more than $2.8 billion in PC power are wasted every year. And computers often account for 10 to 20 percent of total building power use. Implementing power management software, however, can cut computer power consumption by up to 80 percent, according to a March 2009 report conducted by the Alliance to Save Energy and 1E. That translates to savings of $25 to $75 per computer.
Free vs. Paid Software
There are many software options that will activate sleep (lower-power) features across your network, including free software. Software systems that aren’t free typically offer more solutions (automatically saving open documents before shutdown, ensuring that administrative software updates are applied to “sleeping” computers, producing reports on energy savings, allowing end-users to set up custom work/holiday schedules) and, as a result, could deliver more energy savings. But either option is bound to save energy.
Yale, which used to leave its computers on 24/7 to allow for nighttime back-ups and software updates, implemented a commercial software package that shut down computers and set auto-wakeup values to 5 minutes prior to scheduled back-ups. Once the computers are booted up and updates and back-ups are complete, the machines shut down again. After putting this plan into practice in its facilities department, Yale is now taking it organization-wide. Since the project started in February 2006, the institution saves $4,700 per year, has prevented the emission of 61,000 pounds of CO2, and has saved enough electricity to power 34 homes. With more than 10,000 computers at Yale, the school could save almost half a million dollars annually if it applies its software solution across all campus computers.
Back in 2008, Verizon activated sleep features on 11,000 computers in a pilot study. And, because sleeping computers and monitors generate less heat, Verizon also reaps the benefits of annual energy savings from reduced air-conditioning loads. The company used a free software tool from ENERGY STAR (EZ GPO) to configure computers and monitors. Then, it used a commercial package to “wake” computers up when a security patch or software upgrade was needed. Once the patch/upgrade is done, the machine returns to standby. Because of its efforts, Verizon also qualifies for a utility-sponsored incentive program that pays up to $15 per computer for activating sleep features.
Washington Mutual uses commercial power management software on 44,000 of its PCs. Between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., PCs and monitors in retail branches stay on. At the back-office locations, monitors turn off after 20 minutes of sitting idle, and PCs go into standby mode after 30 minutes of idleness. At 6 p.m., if the computers are inactive, they enter standby, and monitors turn off. Employees who work late can keep computers from shutting down.
According to the U.S. EPA, facilities professionals should use power management software to set computers to enter system standby or hibernation after 30 to 60 minutes of sitting idle. To save even more, you can set computer monitors to enter sleep mode after 5 to 20 minutes of inactivity. On laptops, those settings need to be activated in the AC and DC profiles.
Leah B. Garris (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.