Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leaving PCs on Overnight Costs Companies $2.8B a Year

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
This Surge Protector has an Indicator Light
that Illuminates when it is On

In a recent article by Jon Swartz, USA TODAY SAN FRANCISCO —

Even during an economic meltdown, when companies are scrambling to cut costs, businesses are wasting billions of dollars by leaving their PCs on at night.

U.S. organizations squander $2.8 billion a year to power unused machines, emitting about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide — roughly the equivalent of 4 million cars — according to a report to be released Wednesday.

About half of 108 million office PCs in the USA are not properly shut down at night, says the 2009 PC Energy Report, produced by 1E, an energy-management software company, and the non-profit Alliance to Save Energy. The report analyzed workplace PC power consumption in the USA, United Kingdom and Germany.

Wastefulness does not just affect a company's bottom line, it creates environmental concerns, the report says. If the world's 1 billion PCs were powered down just one night, it would save enough energy to light the Empire State Building — inside and out — for over 30 years, it says.

"Workers do not feel responsible for electricity bills at work, and some companies insist PCs remain on at night so they can be patched with software updates," says 1E CEO Sumir Karayi. He says 63% of employees surveyed said their companies should take more steps to save PC power.

"It is scary how much energy is wasted," says Michael Murphy, senior manager of global environmental affairs at Dell, a business partner and customer of 1E. It has used 1E software to efficiently manage its 50,000 PCs globally, saving about $1.8 million a year.

Simply shutting down PCs at night can save a company with 10,000 PCs over $260,000 a year and 1,871 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the report says.

"PCs can be a tremendous drain on electricity," says Doug Washburn, an analyst at Forrester Research. "During a nine-hour workday, it isn't always in use because of lunch, meetings and other things."


While our homes may not have more than one or two computers, we can apply this same appalling problem to our families' passive consumption of power by leaving many electric and electronic items plugged in constantly.

Take a tour of your home and look at everything that is plugged in. Most items have indicator lights that are on when the item is plugged in, even when it is not being used. That is unnecessary power usage. It adds up quick when you count the many items in your home that are plugging in all the time.

Recently when I took a carbon footprint test at Make Me Sustainable, I saw first hand how each item I unplugged saved me power and lowered my carbon footprint. I got a double reward for each item I unplugged. Just taking the test was enlightening, but seeing how each change affected my footprint number was envigorating.

Moreover, if you run a business or have a voice in one, use your opportunities to have an impact. You can encourage others to turn off their multiple electronics at their desks and offices. Think about the items at a typical desk or small office: electric pencil sharpener, computer, scanner, printer, fax, telephone, answering device, rechargers for phones, blackberries, lamp, overhead lighting, fan, surge protectors, calculator, electric staplers, and a radio. What have I missed that is in your office?

Here's my solution. It is absolutely so simple, you'll wonder why we haven't all done it sooner. Using surge protectors, plug as many items into each as possible. Use one for the items that must remain on such as clocks and telephone answering devices--possibly fax machines. Leave that one on at night, and unplug or turn off the others. Notice that even surge protectors use power when nothing is plugged into them, if they are turned on. Again, there is an indicator light on most of them.

Finally, I encourage you to measure your personal carbon footprint and make changes in your home, as well. Make it a game to see how much you can lower your footprint. I guarantee you will find it is addicting.

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