Two steps to big energy savings on desktop computers

With two simple steps, you could go from using about 200 watts of electricity per computer workstation to about three watts whenever the workspace is not in use.

Just imagine what that could mean for your business's electricity bills and, if put in practise in businesses across B.C., what that would mean to collective savings across B.C.

What it's about

Desktop energy management software, combined with current-sensing power bars, offer a low-cost, one-two punch. With these two solutions in place, BC Hydro estimates businesses can reduce desktop on-time by an average of four hours a day, or about 3,000 hours a year.

This translates to about $25 per desktop per year.

In addition, BC Hydro’s Product Incentive Program (PIP) provides businesses with substantial rebates to help cover the costs of the new technology, dramatically reducing both up-front costs and payback time.

The details

How can you be a part of this initiative? There are two simple steps:

1. Install desktop energy management software

All computers with Windows or Macintosh operating systems now come with built-in power management software. This allows the individual user to set a time – say, five minutes of inactivity (the lower the setting, the more you will save) – after which the computer and its monitor will automatically go into energy saving “sleep” mode. The computer and monitor will come back to full power with just a touch on the keyboard or a click on the mouse.

This built-in software is great, and should be used, but it has limitations. For example, individual employees can change the settings at any time and the software only allows for an automatic sleep mode – you cannot set the computer to shut down completely at a specific time or after a certain period of inactivity.

Desktop energy management software, on the other hand, gives businesses complete control. With it, businesses can determine at the network level when computers will:

  • go to sleep
  • go into an even lower-power stand-by mode, or
  • shut down completely – at 6 p.m., for example, or on weekends.

At the same time, however, you can set the software to recognize when someone is working late and keep the computer on. Some versions even allow remote workers to wake up their computers as necessary or enable IT departments to set special no-shut-down times they can use for system upgrades or scheduled maintenance.

Cost per computer: About $6 to $20. With the Product Incentive Program incentive of $6 (or 75% of the cost, whichever is less) and resulting energy savings of about 320 kilowatt hours per year, desktop energy management software could pay for itself in virtually no time at all.

2. Change your old power bars to the latest current sensing power bars.

Unlike traditional power bars that are really just large versions of a wall plug with added surge protection – or even the first wave of energy-efficient power bars controlled by timers or occupancy sensors – current sensing power bars are a truly revolutionary way to manage your energy use.

Current sensing power bars can be used to control all of the devices on or near a desktop, including computer, monitor, printer, modem, fax machine, cell phone charger, calculator, under-desk heater or on-top-of-desk fan and even task lighting. Here's how they work.

Most current sensing power bars have 10 outlets. One outlet is called the “control outlet.” Six others are called “controlled outlets” and three – marked in red – are called “always-on outlets.”

You plug your monitor into the control outlet spot and your computer (and any other device you want on all the time, such as a cordless telephone) into one of the always-on outlets. This will ensure you do not have to waste time restarting your computer unnecessarily.

As soon as your computer – and thus your monitor – goes to sleep, the current sensing power bar senses the change in current and shuts down all devices plugged into the controlled outlets. This shutdown helps eliminate what’s known as “phantom load” – the small but significant amount of electricity drawn 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by virtually every device plugged into an electrical outlet.

Once again, just a touch on your computer keyboard or a click on the mouse will bring everything back to full power.

Cost per computer: About $15 to $30 more than a regular power strip. However, with a BC Hydro Product Incentive Program incentive of $7, and resulting energy savings (if you plug in your task light as well) of about 100 kilowatt hours per year, a current sensing power bar could pay for itself in 24 months.

For more information

To find out more about desktop energy management – including which products qualify for BC Hydro Product Incentive Program rebates – go to the Product Incentive Program section on or call 1 866 522 4713.

Source: BC Hydro News