Savvy small businesses are always on the hunt for ways to save on overhead costs and invest in new ways to grow.
Along with energy-efficient upgrades to lighting or HVAC systems, you may have an opportunity to save even more energy with your day-to-day tech. Here’s how your IT decisions can help your business save in the long run.
Just as you might at home, it’s important to be aware of the energy used by any equipment plugged into your outlets and drawing energy – also known as plug load. In offices, plug loads can account for 30 percent, on average, of electricity used – and much of that is often a phantom power load (equipment using energy even without someone actively using it).
So take stock of what’s turned on or still plugged in and drawing power around the office. Consider using plug-in power meters or power bars equipped with meters, which can help small businesses determine how much energy is being used around the office.
You can then take steps to curb energy use when you don’t need it. A good place to start is to create policies around unplugging and turning off equipment when it’s not in use. This should include individual workspaces, as well as boardrooms and other shared spaces.
In addition to reminding employees to switch off or unplug their electronics at the end of the workday, you can encourage them to do this while they’re away from their desks for an extended period. For example, during meetings when they don’t require their computers. And be sure to remind your team to use the appropriate power management features on their computers.
Managing your plug load around the office is especially important these days, given that many small offices are now operating with reduced hours or at lower capacity as employees work from home more often.
Speaking of working from home, you may even be able to remove little or unused technology from the office entirely – such as phones and printers – to save even more energy.
Of course, technology is critical to every business, so for the electronics you absolutely do need, consider upgrading aging equipment to ENERGY STAR-certified models.
Computers, imaging equipment (printers and scanners), computer monitors, some phones and even digital signage all can receive the ENERGY STAR designation indicating they’re using less energy than standard models. Generally speaking, laptops are also much more energy efficient than desktops and give your employees more flexibility in terms of where they work.
Small networking equipment, such as modems and routers, can also earn the certification. So can other energy-using items around the office, including kitchen appliances – so keep that blue ENERGY STAR label in mind whenever you’re shopping for new products for the office (or for your home).
Although some of your older technology may already be ENERGY STAR certified, you might be able to save even more energy when you upgrade. Some products can earn the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, meaning they’ve demonstrated superior energy performance. In other words, they’re the best of the best in terms of energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR product list is updated annually, so take a look whenever you’re purchasing new products.
If you’re on the fence about upgrading outdated technology, consider that newer, more energy-efficient models will help you save money over time. Your employees will also likely appreciate the upgrades.
The more technology we use, the more data we create – and all that data has to go somewhere. On-site servers are plugged in all day, using energy even when they’re idle. This hardware also requires cooling and ventilation to work properly, which can drive up energy costs.
The cloud, on the other hand, is designed to consolidate data – documents, image files, videos and more – on remote servers. With cloud computing, businesses can use applications over the Internet.
Moving data to the cloud shifts energy use from your office to a data centre. In fact, University of Berkley researchers created a tool to measure how cloud computing can save energy and found that the impact could be significant.
Data centres themselves do, of course, use energy, but they’re also becoming increasingly efficient as technology evolves. A February 2020 study published in the journal Science also found that even though cloud computing output climbed sixfold between 2010 and 2018, energy use only went up by six percent.
Your cloud provider will also handle important aspects of data storage, such as backups and disaster recovery. So, moving to the cloud won’t just curb energy costs, it also may give you greater peace of mind.
If you do need to have some data storage equipment on site to complement what your cloud provider offers, look for technology that is ENERGY STAR-certified. Data storage, servers, large networking equipment and uninterruptible power supplies can obtain the certification.
Remember to ensure that any server closets on site, or spaces with other IT equipment that runs frequently, are well ventilated, so they require less cooling.
Technology and energy go hand in hand. Beyond mission-critical computers, you may be able to save energy by making other tech-savvy upgrades around the building.
For example, “smart” devices built for residential use may also help save energy in small office settings. These are essentially devices that connect to the Internet and allow for more control and automation, such as sensors that connect to lighting or HVAC systems, to help them run more efficiently. In small office spaces, for instance, smart thermostats designed for residential spaces, combined with sensors for accurate temperature readings, may improve energy efficiency (and employee comfort).
So, along with energy-efficient technology upgrades around the office, talk to your property owner or manager about the possibility of using smart building technology. Taking advantage of new smart technology where appropriate, combined with making simple changes around the office, may just lead to a better office environment - and improve your bottom line.