Sleep Mode

07/08/2002 |

Putting Computer Monitors to Bed

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. July is a great month for picnics, baseball, vacations, and napping – especially for energy- sapping computer monitors.

EnergyStar®, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program to promote energy efficiency, estimates that 45 percent of the nation’s computers are not enabled for monitor power management, costing U.S. business and organizations $900 million a year.

Computers were the first products to be labeled with the EnergyStar label, back in the early 1990s, says Steven Ryan, program manager for Power Management Initiative, U.S. EPA, EnergyStar Program. “EnergyStar-labeled computers reduce energy consumption by automatically shifting into a sleep mode after a certain period of time. Recently, we came across some data that indicated that people are turning off the sleep feature on their computers,” he explains.

Manufacturers are required to ship computers with the sleep mode feature enabled. Ryan explains that information technicians (IT) can very easily disable the feature. “From the research and the work we’ve been doing that gives us actual feedback, we realize that it’s more than 50 percent; in some cases, it’s more like 80 or 90 percent of computer monitors in any commercial building are not enabled for sleep mode,” he says.

Ryan believes that one of the reasons for the high disabling rates is that there can be certain problems that occur when computers go into sleep, such as people being dislocated from the network. “What we’ve done is focus on the monitors and getting the monitors to go to sleep.”

Ryan’s group focused on reducing the energy consumption of computer monitors because, depending on the type of computer and monitor, the difference in consumption can be 60/40 or even 70/30 in terms of energy usage for monitor vs. computer. Virtually nothing can go wrong when the monitor goes to sleep – thus avoiding the complications of possible network disconnects.

EnergyStar’s EZ Save software allows IT staff to install the program directly onto a network server. As users log onto the network, each computer is then automatically enabled to power down into sleep mode after a set period of idle time. It is up to the IT person to specify the period of time.

For every 1,000 computers with monitors in sleep mode, an organization can save about 200,000 kWh/yr. (depending on the price of electricity, that’s a savings of between $15,000 and $20,000 per year). Cisco Systems, as an example, has sleep-enabled roughly 30,000 of its estimated 50,000 computer monitors. That works out to be $500,000 – all with only 16 hours of IT staff time. When the enabling process is completed in all of Cisco Systems’ computers, the company estimates it will save as much as $1 million annually – a reduction of 8.5 million kWh per year.

EZ Wizard is an individual computer piece of software on a bunch of shareware sights that can be downloaded. With a click on the link for the EZ Wizard software, it will automatically set your monitor. Regardless of the size of an organization, the savings are measurable. A single enabled computer will save an average of $25 per year.

For computer monitors, napping is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to rejuvenate energy costs and consumption.

Clara M.W. Vangen was formerly technologies editor at Buildings magazine.

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