Home offices can be energy savers

Millions of people in the U.S. work from home, and that saves energy and time by cutting out the commute. But it could also increase your home energy bills a lot unless you use energy-saving office equipment, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

DOE says using home office equipment with the Energy Star label can save you as much as 90 percent in electricity on some products. Overall, Energy Star-labeled office products use about half the electricity of standard equipment, the agency says.

Along with saving energy directly, such equipment can reduce air-conditioning loads, noise from fans and transformers, and electromagnetic field emissions from monitors.

What is Energy Star? It's a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in which various consumer products, from computers to washing machines, are measured for how efficient they are. The most efficient get the Energy Star label

So, about that home office?

  • Shop for Energy Star-labeled computers, copiers, fax machines, monitors, printers, scanners and multifunction devices (fax, scanner, copier).
  • An Energy Star-labeled computer uses 70 percent less electricity than computers without the designation. If left inactive, Energy Star-labeled desktop computers enter a sleep mode and use 4 watts or less. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy, but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.

  • To maximize savings with a laptop, put the AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off or will turn off automatically; the transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
  • Common misperceptions sometimes account for the failure to turn off equipment. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.
  • Energy Star-labeled computers and monitors save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure power management is activated on your computer.
  • There is a common misperception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.
  • Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade; they use much less energy than desktop computers.
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