Software helps businesses manage energy-saving features

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is stepping up its campaign urging businesses to adopt free software that allows IT departments to turn on built-in energy-saving features in desktop systems across an enterprise.

Using the software offers painless cost-savings for businesses, the EPA says, since it can be applied to thousands of computer monitors in about an hour.

The free power-management software, available from the EPA’s Web site, automatically puts computer monitors to “sleep” when a system isn’t in use, drastically reduce their energy consumption. Sleeping monitors are “awakened” by moving the computer’s mouse or pressing any key on the keyboard.

The software is part of the agency’s Energy Star program, which began in 1992 as a voluntary program to identify energy-efficient products for use in homes and businesses. In 1996, the EPA joined with the U.S. Department of Energy to promote Energy Star as a way of reducing energy use.

J. Michael Walker, an Energy Star technical support contractor in Washington, said that although power management features have been built into some computer operating systems, such as Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 95, 98 and XP, the features were left out of Windows NT, which is mostly used in corporate environments.

Some 45 percent of monitors used in business don’t have power management features activated, according to EPA estimates. And as companies upgrade to Windows 2000 or XP, which have built-in power management features, some IT departments aren’t setting up the monitor-sleeping feature because they don’t realize it’s there, he said.

But instead of having to backtrack and set each monitor individually, the EPA software will allow IT workers to use a console to set the monitors across their companies to go into sleep mode when they’re not being used by workers.

The savings can amount to US$20 a year or more per monitor, which adds up quickly for businesses with thousands of desktops, Walker said.

At Cisco Systems Inc., 20,000 monitors were set up with the EPA software, saving 3.4 million kilowatts of electricity worth about $528,000, according to the EPA. The company is expanding the program to another 30,000 monitors in other Cisco offices, which will raise the cost savings to about $1 million a year.

Mail services and document management vendor Pitney Bowes Inc. in Stamford, Conn., has enabled power management features on about 10,500 monitors, saving more than $160,000 a year, according to the EPA.

“For us, this is a good time,” Walker said. “Corporate America is particularly receptive to this message as they might not have been two years ago during the boom. They’re very open to this message now.”