Get switched on


Lawmakers within the European Commission and the US have this year embarked on an ambitious joint five-year programme to develop the energy efficiency of office equipment.
The agreement is an extension of the US-developed Energy Star programme and will cover all forms of energy-consuming office machinery, including computers, monitors, copiers, printers and fax machines, which are responsible for approximately five percent of the EU’s electricity consumption.
This year Energy Star introduced new specifications for office and imaging equipment, which means it will be more difficult for computers, copiers, fax machines, mailing machines, multifunction devices (MFDs), printers, and scanners to earn the coveted Energy Star accreditation.
According to Energy Star, its new specifications promise significant energy savings. In addition to reducing power use for the products themselves, the new criteria also sets additional requirements for accessories.
If an imaging product is sold with an external power adapter, cordless handset, or digital front-end, the accessories must meet current Energy Star External Power Supply (EPS), Telephony, or Computer specifications.
Cost savings
Energy Star qualified office and imaging products use 30 to 75 percent less electricity than standard equipment. And using less energy keeps utility costs down. Over the next five years, these products will save office users almost £10 billion ($20 billion).
If all US offices switched their imaging equipment to the new Energy Star-qualified products, the US would save more than nine billion kWh and more than $700 million dollars, or $0.06/ft² of office space. It would also prevent the emission of over 30 million pounds of greenhouse gases.
From the beginning of July this year, Energy Star’s new specifications for computers went into effect. The new criteria apply to a variety of products including desktop and notebook (or laptop) computers, game consoles, integrated computer systems, desktop-derived servers, and workstations.
Since computers are in use many more hours per day than in the past, Energy Star has strengthened its requirements to better save energy among computers and related equipment under today’s usage patterns. Qualified products must now meet energy-use guidelines in three distinct operating modes: standby, sleep mode, and while computers are being used. This approach ensures energy savings when a computer is active and performing a range of tasks, as well as when standing by. Newly qualified computers must also include a more efficient internal power supply.
By requiring efficiency savings across operating modes, the new computer specification is expected to save consumers and businesses more than $1.8 billion in energy costs over the next five years and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual emissions of 2.7 million vehicles.
Significantly reducing your customer’s energy bill can be as simple as enabling monitor power management on their computers. Power management allows monitors to enter a low power mode during periods of inactivity. In a typical office setting, a computer monitor costs $34 annually to operate. A monitor with power management enabled, which is also turned off at night and weekends, can cost as little as $7 in annual operating costs.
On most personal computers using MS Windows, the monitor’s power management can be set through the control panel in the Start menu. Go to Display, Screen Saver and Power to set the time to ‘power-down’ mode for the monitor.
Computers and monitors can be significant energy consumers in government offices. Unfortunately, much of the energy consumed by computers is wasted because machines are often kept on while not in use. This is why it is important for businesses to purchase computers that automatically ‘go to sleep’ when not in use. Although this is a common feature on most modern computer systems, computers and monitors should still be turned off for maximum energy savings.
Computer equipment contains materials that can pose a threat to the environment if not managed carefully at the end of their useful life. Desktop colour monitors typically contain two or more pounds of lead, and lead can also be found in the circuit boards of the computer. Most desktop computers use some type of on-board battery that may contain lead, cadmium, or other heavy metals. As toxic materials, lead and other heavy metals should not be released into the environment. Additionally, laptop computers are typically powered by a rechargeable battery, which must be specially disposed of or recycled.
More savings can be gained by purchasing computers that are easily upgraded without special tools and that have expandable memory and storage capacity. These choices can reduce the need for replacement equipment as well as the frequency with which the office must pay to manage waste machines.
Copiers and fax machines
Copiers and fax machines are the most energy-intensive type of office equipment because they are left on for long periods of time – in some cases, 24 hours per day.
 Energy Star-qualified imaging equipment delivers the same performance as less efficient, conventional equipment and is at least 30 percent more efficient.
Copiers that have earned the Energy Star not only use less energy, but also power down when not in use, and use about half of the electricity of standard models.
Qualified machines also print double-sided pages, reducing both copying and paper costs. Efficient designs help Energy Star equipment run cooler and last longer, so businesses that use these products may also save on air conditioning and maintenance.
Drinking fountains
Several US universities and governmental agencies across the country have advocated the unplugging of refrigerated drinking fountains as a way to save energy and cut costs. Drinking fountain manufacturers have estimated energy consumption of refrigerated fountains to be between 8.5 and 10.5 kWh per 40-hour working week.
When considering unplugging drinking fountains, facility managers should be advised to address these issues:
• Higher-use drinking fountains are likely the best applications for unplugging. Since all refrigerated drinking fountains have internal water reservoirs, some manufacturers have expressed concern that water could become stagnant or distasteful after long periods of non-use (ie. months). This concern is not an issue for non-refrigerated drinking fountains that have no reservoir. The American National Standard Institute requires refrigerated drinking fountain water to be delivered at 40 to 50°F.
• Consider the application and the reactions of employees, students, patients, clients and public users to be affected by the change of supplying unchilled water
• Consider the ease of disconnecting the refrigeration units. Many drinking fountains have an electrical cord and are plugged into a wall outlet. Others are internally wired into an electrical box hidden by the fountain housing
• Some new models of cold water fountains require electricity to dispense water
Other Options for fountains include:
• Some facilities staff have wired drinking fountains into light-switch circuits, which would be shut off at night and at weekends
• The use of inexpensive timers (less than £10) could also be considered as a means of shutting off fountains during unoccupied time periods
• Consider establishing a policy that all new drinking fountains will be non-refrigerated models
• On some newer refrigerated drinking fountains, the water temperature setting can be adjusted up to 50°F, helping to save energy and money.
Manufacturers of bottled water coolers have estimated the average electrical consumption of the machines to be between 3.5 and 4.5 kWh per 40-hour working week (for a 1.2 amp unit). This equates to a cost of $12 –17 per year using commercial electrical rates.
When considering purchasing water coolers, facilities staff should choose Energy Star-rated coolers, which are better insulated and have higher-efficiency refrigeration units. The Energy Star programme estimates that an Energy-Star rated water cooler can save up to $47 per year.
Vending machines can often be overlooked when considering a business’s energy consumption, but they’re one of the largest energy consumers in the office environment.
Clients should be advised to consider the use of occupancy sensors and controllers that will reduce a vending machine’s power requirements during long periods of non-use, such as overnight and weekends. This occupancy controller option should be considered when de-lamping a vending machine is not advisable (ie. when a vending machine does not have a captive audience or when de-lamping resulted in reduced vending sales revenues).
VendingMiser, a Bayview Technology product, saves between 30 and 50 percent of the annual electricity costs of a refrigerated vending machine, depending on the application and occupancy of the location. VendingMiser uses an infrared sensor to power down the vending machine after 15 minutes of vacancy, constantly monitoring the room’s temperature while powered off to maintain the temperature of the product. Some new vending machines have built-in occupancy sensors and power controllers. Energy-saving sensors also reduce maintenance costs and increase the life of fluorescent lamps in the front panels.
Vending machines typically cool less than half the volume of a home refrigerator, yet may use more than five times as much energy. So the potential for improvements by manufacturers is huge. In addition to better lighting, potential efficiency improvements for beverage vendors include more or better insulation, more efficient compressors, improved condenser heat transfer, more efficient fans, and control changes to the refrigeration cycle (such as raising set points during late-night hours or other times of low use). One study that evaluated these options concluded that the combination of lighting upgrades, turning lights off for nine hours per day, reducing cabinet heat gain by 40 percent, and using permanent split-capacitor fan motors with duty cycling could reduce energy consumption by 46 percent. Redesigning the machines to use LEDs instead of fluorescent lighting could also lead to energy savings.
Powered signage
Illuminated exit signs are required to mark exit pathways in all non-residential buildings. Exit signs are, in effect, lighting fixtures that are on all the time. When all other light systems in a building fail, exit signs must remain in operation to ensure occupant safety.
The codes and standards governing the configuration of the sign, its brightness, and where and how it is placed in the building are complex and vary by jurisdiction.
In the past, incandescent lamps were used for exit signage. Most exit signs currently in place are probably lit by incandescent sources. These have a disadvantage beyond their high power consumption in that they can fail when subject to shock and vibration, such as when a door is slammed.
Newer technology exit signs can significantly conserve energy, reduce labour demand, and save money.
• Light Emitting Diode (LED) exit signs are presently the preferred choice for both new exit signs and retrofitting existing exit signs. While LED exit signs have an extremely long life (10-plus years), LED illumination does depreciate over time. LED technology is also available in direct retrofit kits for use in existing incandescent signs.
• Compact fluorescent lamps are narrow diameter bulbs with "rare earth tri-phosphors" that use electronic ballasts to yield higher lamp efficacy and better colour. Fluorescent lamps consume approximately one fourth less power than incandescent, last longer, and won’t fail when a door slams. Fluorescent sources are ideal for use in the "stencil" type of exit sign which some experts claim have the best visibility.
• Electro-luminescent is a low-wattage lamp that can make up the entire sign face with lettering and symbols.
• Tritium self-luminous exit signs use the radioactive decay of tritium gas inside a borosilicate glass tube with a phosphor coating. Since these signs are expensive and have disposal issues, they are used only where the physical application of a power supply system is difficult.
Many newer exit sign options are promoted with lamps or self-luminous materials that have surprisingly long lives. The key, however, is not light-source life but the time interval to the point where the light output depreciation renders the brightness of the device below the minimum allowed by code.
It’s evident that as the red tape surrounding energy consumers increases, so does the opportunity for the office supplies dealers as well as their customers.