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IT Energy Considerations

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The growing use of computers within Cecil County Government has caused an increase in energy consumption. Please consider the following suggestions as a method of decreasing power consumption and lessening our energy costs.

Research reveals that many personal desktop computers are not being used the majority of the time they are running and many personal computers nationwide are needlessly left on continuously. Every time we leave computers or lights on we waste electricity. Computers also generate heat and require additional cooling which adds to energy costs.

A typical desktop PC system is comprised of the computer itself (the CPU or the "box"), a monitor, and printer. Your CPU may require approximately 100 watts of electrical power. Add 50-150 watts for a 15-17 inch monitor, proportionately more for larger monitors. The power requirements of conventional laser printers can be as much as 100 watts or more when printing though much less if idling in a "sleep mode." Ink jet printers use as little as 12 watts while printing and 5 watts while idling.

Considering the tremendous benefits of computer use, the above figures may not seem like much, but think of what happens when these costs are multiplied by many computers, the dollars can add up quickly.

If screen saver images appear on your monitor for more than 5 minutes, you are wasting energy. A screen saver that displays moving images causes your monitor to consume as much electricity as it does when in active use. These screen saver programs also involve system interaction with your CPU that results in additional energy consumption. A blank screen saver is slightly better but even that only reduces monitor energy consumption by a few percent.

There are some things you can do to make your computer consume less power without sacrificing any computer performance. Most of our computers are equipped with "Energy Star" features.

Follow these simple steps to access computer and monitor power management features:

  • Point your cursor at the desktop background and right-click
  • Choose "Properties" from the pop up menu
  • Go to the "Screen Saver" page; in the lower right-hand corner near the ENERGY STAR® logo click the "Settings" button. This brings up another dialog box where you choose power management settings.

If you have any problems or questions with these settings, please create a help desk ticket so we can send someone to assist you.

The recommended settings are 20 minutes for monitor sleep and 30 minutes for system sleep. Remember that to save energy with your monitor's built-in power management system, your monitor must go to sleep (shut itself down).

The most basic energy conservation strategy for any type of equipment is to power it off when it is not in use. Consider the following:

  • Turn off your computer and/or peripherals when they are not in use. Turning on and off will not harm the equipment.
  • Keep your printer off until you need to use it. Power it back off when finished.
  • Don't run computers continuously unless they are in use continuously.
  • Turn off at night and on weekends
  • Look for ways to reduce the amount of time your computer is on without adversely affecting your productivity.

The common misconception that a computer's life is shortened by turning it on and off has led some to leave computers on all the time. Others are reluctant to switch their computers on and off a couple times during their workday despite only using this equipment for a fraction of that time. Desktop computers are designed to protect the internal circuitry from power damage from on/off switching. Turning PC equipment off at night or on and off a few times a day will not appreciably affect its useful life. Electronic equipment life is a function of operating hours and heat - both these factors are reduced when equipment is switched off. Modern hard drives are designed and tested to operate reliably for thousands of on/off cycles.

Use good judgment and print as little as possible. Review and modify documents on the screen and use print preview. Minimize the number of hard copies and paper drafts you make. Instead of printing, save information to disks. If your printer prints a test page whenever it is turned on, disable this unnecessary feature.

When general information-type documents must be shared within an office, try circulating them instead of making an individual copy for each person. This can also be done easily by e-mail.

Please recycle waste paper. Before recycling paper, which has print on only one side, set it aside for use as scrap paper or in printing drafts.