Be Standby Power Smart and Save Serious Money

Photo: TommL

There is a predator in your office. One that is costing you hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars per year, and unnecessarily so. It is also cumulatively costing the environment in untold ways. That predator is standby power, and if you get smart about it, you can save some serious money.

We are complacent about luxuries and privileges that we consider to be rights. We turn on the tap and clean water (both hot and cold) comes out. We get into our cars, and gas is perpetually available at the gas station. And when we walk into a room and flick on a switch, whamo — we have light.

But the resources and energy required to provide these instant benefits is not automatic, nor should it be taken for granted. Not only does it have a cost on our environment, but we are also paying for it with our hard-earned profits.

Standby Power

Standby power in particular is a completely unnecessary drain on our finances (and the environment). Also referred to as phantom power or phantom charge, it is the power that is consumed by appliances and electronics, even when they are turned off. You generally know if you have a standby power hungry machine if it has led indicators, blocky power adapters, continuous displays, or remote controls. Even without these components, you could be harboring more than a few standby power culprits in your office.

For every watt of standby power you consume, you pay about $1/year. While this may not seem like a fortune, consider the fact that one desktop computer alone consumes 21 watts when left in sleep mode, and nine watts when completely turned off but left plugged in. Multiply that by the number of computers in your office, and before taking into account any other appliances (like printers, photocopiers, televisions, cell phones, and rechargeable electronics that you may leave plugged in even when charged), and you could very well be spending over a thousand dollars each year on standby power.

For a list of appliances you may have in the office and the associated standby power costs, check out this great chart.

What You Can Do About It

There are a number of things you and your employees can do about this environmental and financial blunder. Getting your employees on board first-off is a great move, as it makes your job easier and plays a part in motivating them to be environmentally conscious at home as well.

1. Hibernate, Sleep, or Better Yet — Just Turn it Off

According to Energy Star, you can save up to $75 or more per computer simply by using the system standby or hibernate features and/or turning off your computers at night. There is no good reason for leaving computers on all night, and it's a security risk no less.

There was once a school of thought that said you should leave your computers on all the time since turning them on and off is harmful. However, I recently chatted with an IT Technician at a large organization, who said that they lost 35% of their computers when they had a power outage — because it had been so long since the computers were shut down; it did more damage than good. So don't be afraid to turn them off; it won't hurt.

2. Monitors Off

Along the same lines, you can save $10-$40 by turning the monitor off when it's not in use (throughout the day as well as at night), as opposed to using a screen saver. In fact, screen savers consume almost double the energy as regular monitor usage.

3. Turn It Off at the Source

You can accomplish this in a few different ways:

  • If you plug most appliances and electronics into power bars, simply switch off the power bar each night.
  • Physically unplug appliances that aren't in use.
  • Use a program like Surveyor, which automatically powers down company computers at night.
  • Implement a system like Green Switch, which designs a custom program to turn off power at the source for specific areas of the office with the flick of a switch.

4. De-wire the Wireless

Remember some of the finer details like turning off your wireless modem at night. This also carries with it the added benefit of protecting your system and devices against hackers.

5. Watch What You Are Charging

If you are charging batteries, phones, laptops, and other devices, pay careful attention to the charge cycle, and ensure you unplug it as soon as it has charged. Even fully-charged devices are huge drains on power when they are left plugged in. A laptop, for example, continues to draw 30 watts of energy when plugged in and fully charged.

By reducing standby power consumption, you will save some serious money, as well as help extend the overall life of our global power supply. For more information on how you and your employees can conserve both resources and money, check out 30 Easy Ways to Go Green in the Office.

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