Horse Sense #71

In this issue:
-  Going Green!
  • Reducing Your Energy Usage
  • Make the Most of What You Have and Reuse What You Can
  • Recycling and Retrofitting
  • Conclusion
-   For More Green Information
-   Energy Saving Tips That Will Save You Money Now!
-   Power Tips

Going Green!
A wise Kermit the Frog once said, “It isn’t easy being green.” Well, when you are talking about computing, it takes a little effort, but you can keep more green stuff in your wallet while you benefit the environment.
Three green ideas apply to most situations:
-Reduce: Reduce the amount of energy you use. Reduce the amount of materials you use.
-Reuse: Repurpose what you have to do another job. Give or sell your equipment to someone else so that they can make use of the components.
-Recycle: Deliver your equipment to someone who can recycle or safely dispose of the components.

Reducing Your Energy Usage
To be “green,” save money, enhance your safety, and prevent debilitating and expensive infrastructure upgrades, saving power is key.
First, a little background is needed. The kilowatt hour is standard unit of electrical measurement. A typical 60W bulb burns up 0.06 kilowatts in an hour (KWh). Typical electrical costs here are over 10 cents/KWh and many electric companies charge much more, especially if you reach certain high usage levels. So, that light bulb costs at least $52/year if you have it on all the time. Your father was right when he yelled at you for leaving all the lights on! It isn’t uncommon for “excess usage” to be billed at more than 20 cents/KWh. Saving only a little energy could save you a considerable amount of money over time. Current estimates are that computing equipment consumes up to 40% of the energy in a typical building.
Newer technologies can have many benefits. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors are much larger and heavier than Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors. More materials means more to recycle. CRTs also can also implode or deliver high voltages, so LCDs are safer. CRTs also use more energy. A Viewsonic G90fB CRT monitor draws over 100W while a 19” V950b LCD with a larger display area draws only 32W. Even if you could fit the CRT on your desk, you would be paying almost $60 a year less to run the LCD. This assumes they would be on all the time. This assumption isn’t as unusual as you might expect as many people use screen savers that keep the monitor active. It is quite possible that if you replaced a perfectly good CRT on your desk with a new LCD monitor, you would save enough on your power bills to pay for the new LCD within a few years. That new LCD would probably also have a bigger viewable area and take up less desk space.
Most home and commercial circuits are designed to carry either 15 or 20 Amps of electrical load. Look at the socket. If it you see two parallel holes with a circle underneath, that is a 15A outlet. The 20A outlet has a sideways T next to a parallel line with a circle underneath. Unfortunately, even newly constructed homes and businesses didn’t take into account the load computers might place on them. The two or four sockets on a single faceplate almost always share the same circuit. In addition, it is quite common to put many faceplates in one or more rooms on the same circuit. The lights might be tied into that same circuit as well. With all these available outlets, it is easy to see how you might be able to plug in too much gear for the circuit. If you do, you risk tripping the breaker, causing a fire, rebooting equipment, corrupting data, and other horrible repercussions. The less power your device takes, the better your infrastructure can handle it.
Some of our clients can’t put any more computers into their data closets because they lack the power and cooling capacity. Computing equipment is drawing so much power that some major data centers haven’t used up all of their floor space, but have used up all of their power. On an even larger scale, communities may have to build new power plants to keep up with the power draw. A single large data center takes the same amount of power as 10,000 homes and it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to lower your power bill. First, buy products that draw less power. Computer manufacturers had been focusing on power and capacity over all else, but their products were becoming less reliable because they couldn’t be cooled efficiently. Their customers also belatedly figured out how much money they were paying to power this equipment. Customers couldn’t put much equipment in one place because it got too hot or they would end up overloading their circuits. Newer products are being produced that not only have more power and capacity, but also draw less energy and produce less heat than older products.
Energy efficient equipment may carry the Energy Star logo (<>). The Energy Star 4.0 certification for computers includes the 80Plus designation. Typical computer power supplies turn only 65% of the incoming energy into useful power for your computer. The rest ends up as heat. High efficiency power supplies provide more usable energy and generate less heat resulting in numerous benefits (<>).
Consider buying fewer computers to do what you need. Many of our clients use a laptop to do almost all of their computing. Laptops have unique advantages when it comes to power. First, they are designed to draw as little power as possible. Second, they have a battery so that they will still run if the power goes out, so an uninterruptible power supply isn’t needed for a laptop. Third, you can easily move them around, so you might not need a computer for each location.
Software can also be a way to save energy and money over the long run:
-Modern operating systems have power saving features built into them.
-Rather than run separate computers, with new, higher powered processors and lots of RAM and hard disk space you can run multiple virtual computers on a single physical computer. This is done most often on servers. It is not uncommon to see eight or more virtual servers on a single physical server.
-You could also use a single piece of hardware to perform multiple functions. Our Internet firewall also serves as a secure server for POP/SMTP mail, anti-spam and anti-virus filtering, DNS, DHCP, FTP, HTTP (web), SMB file sharing, mailing lists, and other services.
-Using hardware and software, you can also virtualize your storage space. Instead of having to over build to allow for storage growth, you can share the storage of multiple servers and use fewer hard disks to do so while saving power and money.
You might want to consider even more “radical” alternatives. A smart phone with a portable keyboard may be all a road warrior really needs. Or, you might want to consider a network terminal. These devices are very secure and draw miniscule amounts of electric power, yet may be powerful enough for you to run everything you want. Or, you may want to let an employee work from home. Then they will be using their own space, cooling, and electric power. With space costs alone at $20 per square foot and up, a 10x10 foot cubicle costs $2000 per year even before you start heating, cooling, or powering the space. And, did we forget to mention that employee satisfaction tends to improve, productivity tends to improve, commute time is cut to zero giving employees an effective “raise” (in the DC area, this would REALLY improve employee satisfaction), and you can recover more easily from a disaster?

Make the Most of What You Have and Reuse What You Can

One of the keys to making an environmentally smart and wallet smart purchase is to think of your equipment as having a life cycle. For example, which is the smarter buy, a $1000 computer you figure will last you 3 years or a more capable $1500 computer that will last you 5 years? Per year, the more capable computer will cost you less. Also, if you ever need extra computing power, it will be there, you won’t have to go out and buy it. You have also lowered the grief and expense of buying a new computer for two years. If you have a longer useful lifetime for an item, it not only is better for the environment, it saves you money in the long run.
Proper maintenance and support can increase the reliability of your equipment, lengthen its useful life, and allow it to do more work in less time. For example, a client complained of slow Internet access on all of his computers and that one of his machines that was fairly new was almost unusable because it was so slow. The slow computer turned out to be almost completely full of music files and backup files and had little space left for actual work. It was also running lots of unnecessary programs as soon as it started up, including programs to listen to radio over the Internet and pull down rotating pictures for the desktop over the Internet. Once the machine was cleaned up, the unnecessary programs removed, and the hard disk optimized, performance increased over 400% and Internet access speed improved for everyone on the network. Performance optimizing software kept that machine running well. Extending the life of a useful machine is more cost effective and environmentally sound than buying a new one.
At Iron Horse, we have some very old equipment that is still in operation. In fact, we retired one machine that had been in operation from 1992 to 2006. It was a 486DX2/33 computer running Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. It started out as a “super powerful” personal computer that I used as my own workstation and ended up as a network fax server. My parents now use a former Iron Horse machine that is at least 10 years old to surf the web and download e mail. Iron Horse’s very powerful firewall and multi-function secure server I mentioned above runs on a machine that is at least 7 years old. At 128MB, it doesn’t even have enough memory to run Windows XP. Old equipment may still be useful.
When Iron Horse has wrung what use it can out of its hardware and software, we donate to schools or charities that still might be able to use it. We also internally recycle computer components and put old cabling, optical drives, floppy drives, face plates, and fans into new machines.
Sometimes a simple hardware upgrade can improve performance markedly while saving energy. A Windows machine with too little memory will constantly exercise the hard disk. The hard disk is thousands of times slower than using RAM. Adding enough RAM increases performance at the same time it saves energy and wear and tear on your hard disk.

Recycling and Retrofitting
Once we have stretched our computing dollar as far as it will go, we dispose of our equipment. We recycle all of our toners and UPS batteries through manufacturer programs. Empty toner cartridges can be refilled and used by someone else. We also use a Xerox Phaser 8560 for some of our printing needs. The ink sticks it uses take very little storage space and produce 1/40th the waste of a typical laser printer. UPS batteries contain strong acids and lead. They are hazardous waste, so dispose of them responsibly.
Unfortunately, too much hazardous electronic waste enters the waste stream every year. Luckily, my local community has started to recognize the electronic waste problem. They are publicizing proper disposal strategies and giving citizens a way to easily recycle their old computer equipment. See if yours does the same.
I know of an innovative contracting method that the federal government uses called “share in savings.” They have contractors retrofit buildings for more energy efficiency and then pay those contractors a portion of what they save on their utility bills over many years. The government doesn't pay for the retrofit and saves money on its energy bills as soon as the project is completed, and the company doing the retrofit benefits financially as well.

We have only scratched the surface here on how you can help save the environment while saving cash. If you want to know more about how you can do both in your environment, talk to us. We might even entertain the thought of providing “free” equipment and services to you which would be paid for by your savings down the road.

For More Green Information - Energy Star started with computing equipment, but now helps consumers buy all manner of energy efficient devices, like refrigerators and heating and cooling systems. - This site is all about high efficiency power supplies. - The federal government also uses this strict system for buying environmentally friendly computing equipment in many of its contracts. Non-business computing products are unlikely to be listed here. ­ This international standard is all about keeping toxic materials out of your equipment.

Energy Saving Tips That Will Save You Money Now!
-Turn off or unplug your speakers. Most people rarely use them in an office and you can plug them in when needed.
-Turn off equipment when it isn’t in use. In fact, you can improve your security if you cut your power to your Internet connection when it isn’t needed.
-Use the power saving modes on your system. Systems in sleep and hibernation mode use far less power than machines that are always running.
-Don’t forget your printers. Lasers, especially older ones, pull as much or more power than five desktops. Turn them off when they aren’t going to be used. New generation lasers are much more power friendly. In some cases it can pay to replace a laser that is functioning perfectly with a new one that uses fewer resources.
-Space heaters, coffee pots, air conditioners and refrigerators draw more power than most lasers and PCs. Use them judiciously.

Power Tips:
-Often the only way to reliably map what is on a circuit is to trip the breaker.
-An outlet tester will cost you less than $10 and tell you whether an outlet is wired correctly. You can also use it when tripping breakers to map what outlets belong to particular circuits.
-Use a meter like the Kill-A-Watt meter to help you determine power draw over time for a device.
-Many UPSs come with software that can show you exactly how much electricity you are drawing and give you information about the reliability of that electricity over time.

©2008 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse