Your Guide to the Top 5 Green Energy-Efficient IT Certifications

By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2008-09-25 Print this article Print

Deciding to build a green, energy-efficient IT infrastructure is easier than choosing which servers, data storage and virtualization products will actually use less heat, cut your energy bill and reduce your enterprise's carbon footprint. There is no shortage of green, energy-efficient IT certifications and standards that rate products for heat production and energy consumption. But which green IT certifications and standards should your enterprise use to qualify your IT infrastructure, including servers, storage and software, for purchase? Editor M. David Stone decodes the five most commonly referenced energy efficiency certifications-the EPA's Energy Star, EPEAT, RoHS, Blue Angel and EcoLogo.

The first thing a business discovers when it decides to pursue green IT and build an energy-efficient IT infrastructure is that making the decision is easier than figuring out which servers, storage and virtualization products will actually use less heat, cut a company's energy bill and reduce its carbon footprint.

The good news is that you don't have to scour the details of each product. There are any number of green IT and energy-efficient certification programs that will do that for you. The bad news is that there are so many green IT and energy-efficient certifications that it's hard to keep track of them all.

Here are the five most common, with a look at what each means and where it applies in your IT infrastructure and energy-efficient, green IT infrastructure plans.

Energy Star

Probably the most familiar environmental certification, Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. Monitors, printers, scanners, AIOs (all-in-ones), desktop computers and notebooks are all candidates for the rating. To qualify, the product has to meet specific energy efficiency standards, including consuming less than a defined maximum amount of power during use and automatically entering a low-power mode when not in use. The goal is to save energy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Word on Energy Star

For any given type of product, the Energy Star label promises energy use below some maximum level, but for some kinds of equipment, the maximum varies more than you might expect, because it depends on the specific product's features. The maximum allowed for a laser-based AIO with fax, for example, is more than for a single-function printer that uses the same laser engine. Similarly, higher-lasers have higher maximums than lower-speed lasers.

What the Energy Star logo is telling you, in short, is that the energy use is within a defined limit for closely comparable models. A model with fewer features may actually use less energy but not qualify under the program because the rating requires a lower maximum for that constellation of features. So start by defining the features you need, and then look for an Energy Star model with those features.


M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant with special areas of expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. His 25 years of experience in writing about science and technology includes a nearly 20-year concentration on PC hardware and software. He also has a proven track record of making technical issues easy for non-technical readers to understand, while holding the interest of more knowledgeable readers. Writing credits include eight computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 2,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His two most recent books are The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley, 1996) and Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press, 2000, with co-author Alfred Poor).

Much of David's current writing is for PC Magazine, where he has been a frequent contributor since 1983 and a contributing editor since 1987. His work includes feature articles, special projects, reviews, and both hardware and software solutions for PC Magazine's Solutions columns. He also contributes to other magazines, including Wired. As Computers Editor at Science Digest from 1984 until the magazine stopped publication, he wrote both a monthly column and additional articles. His newspaper column on computers appeared in the Newark Star Ledger from 1995 through 1997.

Non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division), and magazine articles and AV productions on subjects ranging from cosmology to ape language experiments. David also develops and writes testing scripts for leading computer magazines, including PC Magazine's PC Labs. His scripts have covered a wide range of subjects, including computers, scanners, printers, modems, word processors, fax modems, and communications software. He lives just outside of New York City, and considers himself a New Yorker at heart.


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