Slaying the energy vampires

Energy vampires — electronics and appliances that suck energy even when turned off — collectively cost the U.S. an estimated more than $10 billion dollars annually.

Now that’s scary.

cartoonish electrical outlet with vampire faces and bat wingsBut fear not! Follow these five easy steps to slay energy vampires in your business and start saving today — no wooden stake necessary.

  1. Recognize vampires. Any consumer electronic device, cord or appliance with a digital clock, small light or black box is using extra energy, even when not in use. Phone and camera chargers, DVRs and cable boxes, lights, laptops, TVs and printers are some of the worst offenders.
  2. Unplug. The simplest solution is to unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. If it is not plugged in, it cannot suck energy and drain your electric utility.
  3. Power strips. Utilize power strips to turn off office equipment, fans, space heaters and other devices at night. The EPA estimates consumers can save $100 a year from regularly using power strips. And there’s no need to buy the latest technology: Any power strip with an on/off switch will cut power at the source. And newer smart power strips come equipped with timers to schedule an automatic shutoff, occupancy sensors that turn off or on based on physical presence or sensors that automatically shut down equipment when entering sleep mode (see No. 4, Settings, for ways to maximize benefits to current sensor power strips). Smart power strips are available from most electronics retailers, but be sure to check with your local utility. It may offer smart power strips at a discount or rebate a portion of the retail price.
  4. Settings. Putting your computer to sleep or in hibernate mode rather than leaving it in stand-by can save $2 per month per computer. In fact, a quick Internet search can show you how to configure most printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners and multifunction devices to automatically enter low-powered sleep mode when inactive. Combining sleep mode configuration with smart power strips can help your office realize big savings. Also consider setting your lobby or break room TV to “home” rather than keeping it at its brighter, higher energy default mode.
  5. Consolidate. Fewer electronic devices mean fewer energy vampires. Sharing one piece of equipment, for example a networked multifunction device (versus individual printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners) among 10 or more users can produce an energy cost savings of 30 to 40 percent. Additional cost reductions come from reduced need for hardware, paper, ink, toner and maintenance.

See the Environmental Assistance Center’s energy efficiency page  for more ideas and resources for business energy savings opportunities.