A Bright Idea

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-08-26 Print this article Print

A Bright Idea

This is not to say that LCD investments cant pay for themselves—they can, especially in newer offices, because of their relative brightness.

Most energy-use calculations are based on more or less traditional office configurations, which include offices and cubicles brightly illuminated with headache-inducing fluorescent lighting. The brightness of LCDs allows office designs based on more efficient lighting systems. We expect that many of the LCDs in use today sit in executives offices, which appear not to be shrinking in size.

Meanwhile, the workers are being cramped into redesigned, "upgraded" cubicles that are better for the bottom line. Its in these offices that LCDs will have the biggest impact on cost and space savings. Not only will LCDs make some employees feel better (because theyre getting a new gadget), but LCDs also free up space. The same is true of smaller, more efficient computer systems.

Reduced lighting costs can also be factored into any LCD cost-saving analysis (see www. eweek.com/links for a report on lighting and associated costs). In addition, if the LCDs are used in a computing room, companies planning for new or replacement air conditioners can get smaller, more efficient units.

The savings associated with smaller air conditioners may even pay for LCD upgrades in the computing room. When monitors are grouped in a computing room environment, LCDs can reduce energy costs considerably.

Vestal Tutterow, principal research associate at Berkeley Lab, in Washington, said, "In a computer-intensive office or call center, or similar, [heat output] can become significant." The use of LCDs also represents a "step in the right direction for any company trying to develop or boost a green image," Tutterow said.

In general, most cost-savings calculations are based on monitors that are on as opposed to a mix of "on" and "standby" modes. However, LCDs take less power to start from standby mode (even though they consume about 1 watt per hour more than CRTs in standby mode).

"LCD screens recover faster than CRT, so it encourages users to configure the power savings management schemes [for shorter periods of time]. Thus, it cuts down on active power time," said Alan Meier, at Berkeley Lab, in Berkeley. "These savings can be substantial."

The result is that dozens of factors affect LCDs and energy consumption, even though energy use is the major driving factor behind corporate sales, according to industry experts.

Officials at Sony Corp., manufacturer of some of the best LCDs weve seen, said reduced energy costs are the top selling points of LCD monitors. Sony Senior Marketing Manager Jim Neal said the factors driving LCD purchases are "60 percent energy, 20 percent AC and 20 percent cubicle location." Therefore, Sony—like every major monitor vendor—has armed its sales force with a total-cost-of-ownership calculator that shows how much money LCDs can save over CRTs, said Neal, in San Diego.

Nevertheless, LCD purchase decisions should not be based on energy savings alone. Instead, LCDs should be incorporated into the designs of office buildings and build-outs because of their reduced energy consumption and the related benefits they provide of reduced office space and smaller, more efficient HVAC systems.

eWeek Labs Director John Taschek is at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

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    As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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