Going green doesn't mean joining some radical organization, using pig waste to power your data center or flying the ecology flag at your place of business. It does mean doing your part to save electricity, fossil fuel and your own money. I know what you're thinking: "Oh great, another 'green' article telling me I have to spend a bundle of money to save a few pennies." To the contrary, these tips will save you money and for the most part require very little effort and no money. What could be better than that? Moneymaking tips, perhaps? Implement enough of these, and it will feel like you're making money rather than just saving it.
Traditional desktop computers consume a huge amount of energy. Most have 350-450 Watt power supplies that constantly gobble up electric juice to the tune of 200 Watts or more. Printers are also very hungry power users, as are copiers, fax machines, computer monitors, cell phone chargers and standard light bulbs. Alternative desktop computers, such as thin-client terminals, netbooks and standard laptop computers sip power compared to their traditional desktop brethren. Although most of these alternative devices cost from $150 up to $600, and go even higher for more powerful models, their low heat production and low power consumption make them perfect desktop replacements.
When your standard desktops die off or become obsolete, replace them with something alternative for the same price as traditional fare. Save significant money on power by choosing energy-saving models.
Do you use power management on all of your computers and other office machines that offer it? If not, you should. In Control Panel (Windows computers), look for Power Options or Power Management, and select a power scheme that turns off the monitor and hard disks after 15 minutes of idle time. Set the System standby to 30 minutes. Hibernation settings aren't necessary unless the computer operates on batteries.
Most office equipment has power saving settings. Check your user manual on how to set those for each device that stays on all the time. If a computer or office machine doesn't participate in nightly maintenance, updates or backups, power down those devices at the end of each workday. It's far less costly to power up than to leave everything on.
Rearrange Your Workspace
Believe it or not, a simple rearrangement of your workspace can have significant ramifications. Arrange your desktop computer and monitor so they have plenty of air circulating around them. Heat build-up decreases the life expectancy of electronics and therefore costs you more money. Heat also makes electronic devices run less efficiently. With proper air circulation around your computer "box" and its monitor, you might find that you don't need your thermostat set on 65 degrees all the time.
Allow your computer to breathe, and you'll breathe easier with fewer heat-related failures and lower power consumption for cooling you and your computer.
Unplug Idle Devices and Peripherals
Gadgets suck a lot of power. So do their chargers, power strips and other associated devices, such as speakers. Turn off and unplug electronic gadgets and devices that aren't used. Lengthen the life of electronic gadgets, including laptop computers, by allowing them to operate on battery power. Leaving your laptop continuously plugged into power decreases the battery's life and renders it unable to maintain a charge per its design specifications.
Increase the life of your electronic devices through proper battery conditioning. This saves you money and decreases the amount of e-waste and its disposal.
Green Data Center Tips
How can a data center possibly go green? By using low power-consumption server systems, such as blade servers, to replace current hardware that's ready for refresh, you'll use less power, have less heat to dissipate and gain centralized power management of those systems to boot. Power off monitors connected to server systems when not in use. Monitors generate heat and use power, which, in turn, uses more power for cooling them and co-located systems. Enable power management on your non-blade server systems that do not need to run at full-capacity 100 percent of the time.
Use exhaust fans on racks and in enclosures instead of fans that blow directly onto your systems for air circulation. Blowing air distributes dust that collects on electronic components rendering them less efficient and often leads to overheating as well. Exhaust fans pull in fresh air and blow out warmer air, thereby cooling your systems more efficiently.
Server virtualization makes more economical use of resources than any other method mentioned here. Fewer hardware systems to power and cool means less money sucked out of power outlets and blown out of exhaust fans.
Finally, examine your server layout and, as much as possible, separate your server systems so there is sufficient air space between them in racks and in enclosures.
Replace failing or aging hardware with newer, more efficient hardware. Seriously consider virtualization to consolidate and decrease the number of physical systems required to run your business.
There's no need to tie yourself to a tree to find some green peace in your office or data center. Some simple techniques are all you need to make your business and your bank account a little greener. Comment below to let me know how you're greening your business.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.