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Energy Use in the Office

by Jocelyn Broyles (bio)

Published 8/18/11


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Saving energy in our offices is a big step towards greening our businesses and ushering in sustainability practices. One step you can take to green your office is buying green office supplies but several other factors contribute to office energy consumption including: lighting; heating and cooling; and office electronics. While all of these factors are important and need to be addressed, the purchasing decisions made on office electronics are going to comprise a large part of your office’s overall scorecard on energy savings, sustainability and green choices. Office electronics make up over 40 percent of most offices’ energy usage and “can account… for up to 2.5 Watts [of energy consumption] per square foot of floor space.”[1] See the graph below for details:


To set standards and combat excessive energy usage in offices, major corporations in the office equipment manufacturing industry partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create Energy Star standards for electronic equipment power usage. “The Energy Star Office Equipment Program promotes and labels energy-efficient computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, scanners, copiers and multi-function devices…and Xerox calculates that Xerox ENERGY STAR-qualified products…enabled electricity savings of more than one million megawatt hours, [or] enough electricity to light 880,000 homes in the U.S. for a year.” [2]

Save Office Energy
Be Conscious of Office Energy Use

Determine what office appliances are the biggest energy users.

There are two theories to using Energy Star office equipment – replace all your old equipment, whether broken or not, with Energy Star; or wait until equipment needs replacing. I fall in the camp of waiting to replace until necessary, but if you are starting a new home office, Energy Star electronics should be your only option:

  • "Energy Star computers and monitors save about 50 percent on electricity costs.
  • Energy Star printers power down to 15 to 45 Watts or less depending on the type of printer, and can save over 60 percent on annual energy costs.
  • Energy Star fax machines...also power down 15 to 45 Watts or less when not in use, and can save over 50 percent on annual energy costs.
  • Copiers are the most energy intensive pieces of office equipment. [and as such, are the most important to replace with Energy Star option, which] can reduce annual electricity costs by up to 60 percent." [1]

Besides purchasing Energy Star electronics and office equipment, there are other ways to help reduce your office’s energy consumption.

Green Office Power Strips
Use Green Office Technology

Prior to purchasing office products, ensure that they are energy efficient.

  • Change all light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
  • Use a "smart" power strip and connect all your desktop electrial equipment to it. Turn it off at night to eliminate phantom usage.
  • Use less A/C or heat and install a programmable thermostat. According to SuperGreenMe.com, "Adjust[ing] the temperature a couple of degrees...could save you up to three percent in energy costs."
  • Use your computer's power management settings. ResourceNation.com found "that 75% of desktop computer electricity consumption occurs when no one is in front of the computer. When you enable power settings your system will automatically respond to periods of inactivity by putting it into low power modes. With respect to this study, 80% of desktop computers did not have these settings enabled."

Research also shows that a significant source of power savings can be found in consolidation of office electronics. An office that uses a multi-functional system – an integrated copier, printer and fax – uses about 40 percent less energy than an office which has a separate machine for each of those functions. If you’re setting up a new office, choose an all-in-one system. If you are working in an older office and using non Energy Star, separate machines, by switching to a multifunctional system, your office could increase energy savings by up to 70 percent.

Greening your office and saving energy often seems to come down to one common denominator, even when talking about office electronics, and that common denominator is paper. Manufacturing paper takes a considerable amount of energy, with the “EPA [estimating] it takes 10 times more energy to manufacture paper than to run it through office products.” So when you’re utilizing all the power-saving techniques mentioned above, remember to print double-sided, use scanning and e-documents whenever possible and buy post-consumer content paper. [2]

Whether your office utilizes one or all of the energy-saving methods mentioned here; taking the first step, or the hundredth, in moving towards a greener, more efficient, more sustainable office space is the key to setting examples for other offices and making a difference in the way our business lives affect our environment.

[1] “Energy Efficient Office Equipment” by Aps.com

[2] “Bringing Energy Efficiency to the Office Environment” by Xerox Corporation