CBS Newsletter
Winter 1997
pg. 3

Aerial view of Washington D.C.

News From the D.C. Office

Efficient Office Equipment: Update and a Look Ahead

An extended version of this article is available here.

We are now well aware of the large amount of energy consumed by "plug-in loads" such as personal computers (PCs) and other office electronics. Office equipment is often cited as the fastest-growing end-use of electricity in the fastest-growing sector of demand (commercial buildings). According to Dataquest figures, world growth of PCs will average 14 to 15 percent per year through 1999. Only ten years ago, office equipment was not even part of the "map" of non-residential energy end-uses. There were virtually no data on office equipment energy use, nor an awareness of the substantial energy savings available-primarily through automatic switching to a low-power "sleep" mode whenever equipment is connected but not in use.

Thanks in part to a decade of research led by staff in the Center's Energy Analysis Program, the situation is dramatically different. Office equipment is a well-documented end-use in the commercial sector. Important energy efficiency programs in the U.S. and other countries, notably the ENERGY STAR® label (sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DOE), focuses attention on this sector. The ENERGY STAR program promotes the purchase of computers, monitors, printers, copiers, and faxes that automatically switch to a low-power mode (generally 30 W or less) after a pre-set period of inactivity.

Researchers at the Center and the Environmental Energy Technologies Division's Washington D.C. Projects Office continue to provide important leadership in this area. For example, a recent, widely publicized LBNL report* on the efficiency of office equipment found that EPA/DOE's ENERGY STAR program had the potential to save businesses and consumers more than $1 billion/year in electricity costs-provided that the power-management controls are properly enabled by the manufacturer and user, and are compatible with other hardware and software in our increasingly interconnected office systems.

Center researchers have compiled field-monitored results of actual savings and user experience with power-managed office equipment. Their key finding is that a relatively small fraction (about 15 %) of those computers and monitors with the software to automatically power-down are actually enabled to do so. Further efforts are needed with office equipment-as with many other energy-efficient technologies-to properly install, "commission," and educate users of ENERGY STAR products. This is the only way to assure that this equipment produces reliable, long-term energy savings and continues to satisfy users' needs. As a result of this finding, we have developed an extensive guide that explains how power management features work in PCs and monitors and how to use them in both stand-alone and network environments. The guide, intended for use by computer support personnel including MIS staff and LAN administrators, will be available later this year at both the Center's and EPA's World Wide Web sites.

Another project in the early stages is the monitoring and evaluation of savings in energy and paper from ENERGY STAR copiers. This work will evaluate energy savings from low-power modes, the auto-off feature that turns off the machines at night, and program features to increase duplexing rates. At the D.C. Projects Office, an effort is underway to develop a user's guide for copier features like automatic duplexing and weekly timers. All of the private sector partners in the ENERGY STAR copier effort will receive this "copier tool kit," which will include fact sheets to help them educate their customers, and a guide to train their own sales representatives and service technicians who work with copiers. The kit will also have general marketing materials such as newsletter articles, media releases and case studies.

—Jeffrey Harris, Mary Ann Piette, Jon Koomey, Bruce Nordman, Alison Watkins

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Jeffrey Harris
Washington D.C. Projects Office
(202) 484-0883; (510) 486-0888 fax
Mary Ann Piette
Energy Analysis Program
(510) 486-6286; (510) 486-4673 fax

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