Office Vampires: Millions of Office PCs Feed at Night

Energy%20vampire.jpgVampire energy loss describes the considerable amount of energy sucked up by computers, home electronics and appliances that go into sleep or standby mode when you’re not using them. In the home, these Vampires represent between 5 and 8 percent of a single family home’s total electricity use per year, according to the Department of Energy.
The problem is multiplied many times over in offices in the US and around the world according to an international study released this week by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy. The study found nearly half of US workers who use a PC at their job do not typically shut down at night. The 2009 PC Energy Report, which examines workplace PC power consumption in the US, UK and Germany, estimated that US organizations waste $2.8 billion a year to power 108 million unused machines. In 2009, the fossil fuels burned to power these unused PCs are expected to emit approximately 20 million tons of carbon dioxide, roughly the equivalent impact of 4 million cars.

Put a Stake in It
“Employers today have a golden opportunity to demonstrate their environmental and financial leadership by taking a few simple, energy-saving measures, like setting up processes to power down PCs,” said Sumir Karayi, chief executive officer at 1E. “A computer uses energy even when it appears to be idle. Shutting down PCs when not in use will help businesses to significantly reduce costs while preventing tons of CO2 from being emitted into our atmosphere.”
According to Gartner, every year the information and telecom technology industry generates 2% of the world’s carbon emissions – the same as a year’s worth of air traffic. Moreover, PCs and monitors account for 39% of these emissions, equivalent to the emissions of approximately 46 million cars.
“When examined individually, PCs may not appear to be the biggest energy hog in the IT environment, but when considering the sheer volume of PCs in the world – Gartner estimates more than 1 billion – the energy and carbon implications are staggering,” added Mr. Karayi.
Enegy%20Vamp%202.jpgIn fact, worldwide PC shut-down for just one night would save enough energy to light New York City’s Empire State Building – inside and out – for more than 30 years.
Government and utility companies have recognized the benefits of shutting down PCs when not in use. In the US, all federal agencies are required to activate power management settings. Washington and Texas have enacted legislation that requires a power management plan to power down state agency PCs. Select utility companies around the nation offer rebates as incentives for organizations that use power management software. Time will tell if these measures have any significant impact.
Different Strokes
In terms of national characteristics, the report found that US employees seemed the most practical when citing the reasons they power down: 21 percent of those who ever power down do so for the proper functioning of their PC. UK employees seemed the most idealistic, with 27 percent saying they power down PCs to help the environment. German employees were most conscious about saving the employer’s money, with 18 percent citing their company’s electricity bill as a major factor for powering down.
The survey also found that most employed adults who use a PC at work believe that their companies should be doing more to reduce their power consumption (63 percent in the US, 67 percent in the UK and 58 percent in Germany).
No Brainer
Powering down a fleet of PCs can reduce a machine’s energy use by 80 percent, allowing companies to save more than $36 per desktop PC, according to the report.
“Powering down inactive PCs can provide a simple yet effective way for businesses to reduce overhead costs and environmental impact,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “Now, more than ever, doing what’s good for the environment is good for business. The economic crisis and volatile energy prices make it even more imperative for businesses to save money by saving energy.”
A copy of the full 2009 PC Energy Report, which includes real-world PC energy savings from Dell, AT&T and the U.K. government, can be downloaded at the 1E website. The report is based on data resulting from two surveys conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive® on behalf of 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy.
Download the report to view many more neck biting statistics, and c’mon people shut down those computers.
(Graphics courtesy of AP.)

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

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