Energy-Saving Techniques for SMBs: Appliances

There's more you can do to reduce your office appliances' energy consumption than putting your copier in "standby" mode.

Almost every office needs printers, copiers, fax machines and a host of other appliances to keep business running. Unfortunately, in order to keep your appliances running, you are probably using more energy than you realize. For today's installment of energy-saving techniques for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs), we'll take a look at how more efficient appliances can reduce your energy costs.
When it comes to purchasing energy efficient appliances, it is easy to get lost in the corporate speak of vendors who are all vying for your dollars. Sure, everyone wants to be "green" these days, but where can you find an unbiased resource? Believe it or not, your government is here to help you.
The Energy Star program, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exists to help small businesses become more energy-efficient. The EPA reports that most small businesses can cut their energy costs by 30 percent, the same as a large company, by investing in energy-efficient office appliances. Always buy Energy Star-qualified products for your small business. The Energy Star mark indicates the most efficient computers, printers, copiers, refrigerators, televisions, windows, thermostats, ceiling fans, and other appliances and equipment.
Power Hungry
Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These "phantom" loads occur in most appliances that use electricity. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance, or by using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.
"When an appliance is in standby mode, there is energy being used to keep the programs in a state where they can quickly be brought up," says Steven Atkinson, owner and chief consultant of E/S Technology Consulting and author of Technology Tips for Small Business. "One thing people do need to be aware of is that a lot of times you need to go in and play with the default power settings at the time you get the machine."
Many appliances like printers, copiers and scanners are built with recycled components and have recycling programs in place, Atkinson says, and some printers have a "draft" option that uses less ink. However, there's no substitute for remembering to pull the plug when the office is closing. "My recommendation is to use the sleep mode when the equipment isn't in use, and at the end of the day make sure the equipment is turned off," he says.
Another easy way to reduce energy cost (and cables) is to invest in multi-function appliances. Several vendors offer printer, fax, scanner and copier functionality in one piece of equipment. By removing individual devices and replacing them with multitasking technology, you can reduce energy use by as much as 40 percent. While you're consolidating appliances, try to keep a minimum of power strips in use as well. Connect PCs, monitors, fax machines and peripherals to one power strip, and then turn off that power strip when not in use and at the end of the day.
Appliances use energy, and now matter how efficient new equipment becomes, your electric bill will still be waiting for you every month. But by consolidating and fostering a culture of conservation in your business, you can reduce your energy costs and improve the efficiency of your appliances.