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Office Equipment and Energy Use

Office Equipment Basics

· Office equipment currently accounts for almost 10 percent of all commercial sector electrical use.

· Office equipment is the fastest growing electrical load element in U.S. commercial buildings, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the next decade.

· Computers, as a group, use the most energy of all office equipment. The monitor consumes about 2/3 of a computer's energy use.

· Copiers are the largest single energy user in an office setting.

· One-third less energy is required to make a sheet of recycled paper as compared to producing virgin paper.

Office Equipment can waste energy in the following ways:

Equipment Left On. Much of the energy used by office equipment occurs when it is idle. Between 30 to 40 percent of computers are left on "after hours" at night and during weekends. Typical office computers remain idle as much as 90 percent during the typical workday. Copiers and thermal printers must maintain temperature levels to be ready for instant response, consuming a great deal of energy even when idling. Typical office fax machines are in use only 5 percent of the time they are on.

Mid-size Systems. Businesses sometimes purchase copiers that are much larger than they actually need (anticipating growth) or much smaller than their needs (in order to save on capital costs). Both of these can result in unnecessary energy use, either through wasting excessive energy while idle, or through use that exceeds design specifications.

Excessive Use. Copiers and fax machines are often used even though more efficient means are available, such as computer-faxing, electronic mail and other modem-based communication systems.

Generation of Waste Heat. Office equipment generates heat that must be dissipated by ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Paper: The "embedded" energy involved in manufacturing paper is very high. An average American office worker uses 80 pounds of paper each year. This would equal a stack of paper almost 3 feet high.

Reducing Energy Use
There are five simple guidelines to reducing office equipment energy use:

1. Reduce operating hours by turning equipment off when it is not needed. Contrary to popular belief, leaving computers and copiers on is not good for the equipment. New equipment is designed so that repeated cycling on and off will not affect its operation.

2. Change behaviors to take advantage of energy-saving features on equipment such as duplex printing and copying or fax-modems.

3. When purchasing new equipment, buy appropriately sized equipment that carries the EPA "Energy Star" label. This equipment uses less energy than standard equipment, and is equipped with energy management capability to go into a low energy "sleep" mode when not being used.

4. Reduce paper usage, use duplex printing and copying whenever possible, use a lighter weight paper for informal and/or "draft" documents, and use recycled office paper when possible.

5. Whenever appropriate, communicate electronically, via e-mail or telephone, in lieu of using paper.

No-Cost Opportunities

Manual Control of Office Equipment
Simply turn off equipment when it is not in use. Computers, printers, copiers and small appliances need not be left on "after hours," overnight or on weekends. Computers can be turned off during lunch breaks and long meetings.

Reducing Usage of Equipment
Use the "print preview" feature of computers and print informal documents in "draft mode" to conserve energy and toner. Share printers with colleagues and install printers that have a duplex printing mode. Use the duplex copying feature when duplicating documents. Schedule "batch" copying to reduce idleness during the day.

Using Less Paper
Print double-sided when possible. Re-use paper that has been printed on just one side for notepaper or to print draft documents on the backside. Recycle used paper. Purchase paper having at least 20 percent recycled material. Print stationary, business cards, etc., with colors and contrasts that are easily photocopied by others. Avoid using colored paper as it is more expensive, contains dyes, is harder to recycle, and demands more toner when photocopied. Instead of faxing cover pages, use "stick-on" addressing labels on the first page of the document.

Low-Cost Opportunities

Sleep Mode Control Retrofit
"Sleep mode" controls put equipment into a low-power state after a specified period of non-use, while maintaining all necessary functions. "Screen Savers" are not sleep mode devices; they just "save" the monitor from image burn. When a computer is in sleep mode, its memory remains activated, it remains connected to the network, and it can still receive e-mail and fax messages. The computer is "awakened" by movement of the mouse or depression of a key, and begins again at the same place where the user left off.

Upgrade Electronic Communication Systems
Install fax-modern systems so faxes can be sent and received on computers. Install e-mail software for internal message and document transfers, and subscribe to an internet service to increase external electronic communication capabilities.

Many companies are striving to develop a "paperless office" environment, and reduce dependency on fax machines, printers, and copiers. The costs of equipment, paper, and supplies can be significantly reduced, as well as energy costs.

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