Energy Star Office Equipment for Your Small Business

By Thursday Bram on 10 March 2010 (Updated 5 May 2010) 0 comments
Photo: Bryngelzon

Energy Star-rated appliances are popular for homes because they can offer significantly more energy efficiency than the alternatives. You can get similar benefits for the office by choosing office equipment that has earned approval from Energy Star. Energy Star options are available for many common pieces of office equipment, from computers to copiers.

What the Energy Star Rating Means

While purchasing energy efficient office equipment sounds like a good idea on the surface, you can run into a dilemma when you actually start shopping: many companies describe their products as energy efficient, especially when they're marketed to offices. The Energy Star rating is intended to eliminate confusion about just how efficient printers, scanners, and other office equipment actually are. In order to receive an Energy Star rating, a piece of office equipment must use at least 30 percent less electricity than standard equipment. That includes accessories, such as power adapters.

The Energy Star system is not perfect and relies on manufacturers to offer up information of their own accord; however, it remains one of the most reliable labeling systems used for products in the U.S. Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the European Union have also adopted the system. Some European-manufactured products may alternatively bear a TCO Certification, which is a combined energy usage and ergonomics rating.

Purchasing Energy Star Office Equipment

Looking for the Energy Star label on office equipment can help you quickly narrow down your choices for servers, copiers and other equipment. The Energy Star website maintains information about purchasing a variety of types of office equipment, but you generally do not need to go through the Energy Star program to find specific products. Many online retailers allow you to easily search specifically for various types of office equipment with Energy Star ratings and if you're looking at stores, you can find labels right on the boxes of the products. Among the office equipment that can qualify for Energy Star ratings are the following:

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Servers
  • External power adapters
  • Battery chargers
  • Copiers
  • Fax machines
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • All-in-one imaging devices
  • Mailing machines

The Energy Star program is also working on specifications that will allow them to rate a variety of products in the future, including data center storage, uninterruptable power supplies, and other equipment useful in an office setting.

Equipment that stays on for long periods of time can provide the most significant change in your energy usage when you replace them. Copiers and computer monitors are just two examples that most workers prefer to leave on throughout the work day. Most of the energy savings for more efficient office products comes from the time that the equipment spends in a rest or low-power mode, between uses. Many monitors can power down over a timed period so that they don't waste power, but they also don't affect your ability to get back to work quickly.

Finding the Right Price

Depending on the office equipment you're purchasing, you may notice that prices are higher than their-less-efficient counterparts. The general assumption is that the reduced electricity bill that comes with making the switch to more efficient equipment covers the added expense. But since an Energy Star label simply states that a product is more efficient and does not necessarily guarantee that it will make a significant difference in your monthly bill, it is important that you carefully compare products before making a purchase.

1. Consider the reviews of the product's overall performance. Make sure that it meets your business needs

2. Look for estimates of the product's expected lifespan. A scanner might be expected to save you $7 per year in energy costs, but may only have an expected lifespan of a few years with heavy use. If the price of a particular scanner is more than the savings you can expect over the course of its lifetime, it may not be the right scanner for your business.

3. Check what practices will get the best results with the equipment you're considering. Some are more efficient in sleep mode, but you may be required to turn some products off entirely to get the best results.

4. Consider benefits beyond efficiency. Products with Energy Star approvals tend to produce less heat, which reduces heat-related equipment failures as well as reducing air-conditioning costs in offices.

5. Check how new products will work with your current office equipment. For instance, if you use a Local Area Network (LAN), you may need to check that your new computer's power management feature is compatible with your existing network system.

6. Check the Energy Star website for information on the particular type of equipment you're purchasing. Energy Star lists details like how much money you can expect to save over the lifetime of a product, as well as the specs that a piece of equipment must meet to receive the Energy Star ratings, including details like power management features.

Unlike some upgrades that you can make to increase energy efficiency, there is no tax incentive associated with purchasing office equipment that meets the standards of the Energy Star program. However, your purchase is still a business expense and that fact should be taken into account when choosing a product, especially if you're purchasing a large piece of equipment that you will depreciate.

Beyond Office Equipment

Depending on your business, you may be able to consider a wider variety of equipment that Energy Star has approved as particularly energy efficient. Such equipment includes a variety of commercial food service equipment, as well as materials for upgrading your office space as a whole. From windows to plumbing fixtures, you can make your office as energy efficient as possible. You don't even need to do major renovations to improve the energy efficiency of your office. Even changing out your light bulbs can make a major difference.

You can even find vending machines and water coolers that have Energy Star ratings if you're ready to make your break room more energy efficient, along with changing out refrigerators and other appliances for more efficient models. Energy Star offers options far beyond new printers and computers.

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