Saving Money and Energy on Office Equipment

Saving Money and Energy on Office EquipmentWe all know small businesses use an array of technologies, from computers, printers and copiers to smart phones, refrigerators and personal space heaters. The ever-growing number of gadgets is quickly driving up our electricity bills. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, office equipment accounts for 7% of all commercial electricity costs – and much more if you factor in the air-conditioning costs to displace the heat created by it.

What many business owners don’t realize is the potential electricity (and money) savings reaped by turning off equipment not in use and unplugging it.  Phantom or vampire power, the electricity drawn from the outlet when a piece of equipment is turned off, can account for more than 10% of all electricity used by equipment.

A new study from the Energy Center of Wisconsin looks at the toll all this equipment has on energy costs, and ways to reduce it. The study focuses on home  use, but much of the information is pertinent to businesses as well. It stresses, for instance, the cost savings of setting power management (or “sleep mode”) settings on computers. (Read instructions on how to set power management setting here.) Activating sleep mode settings can save $50 a year on electricity bill, yet less than one-third of computer users have it set.

The study also includes some interesting comparisons of the number of watts per hour various equipment use when they are on and when they are off but still plugged into the outlet. To help you calculate the electricity cost, you can estimate that 1,000 watts (1 kilowatt) costs roughly 10-cents per hour. (A desktop computer and monitor left on continuously for a year, for instance, would cost about $100.)

Here, then, is a look at the watts per hour used by various technologies:

  • Space heater – 1,320 watts on/ 0.6 watts off
  • Coffeemaker – 332 watts on/ 2 watts off
  • Desktop computer – 69 watts on/ 2 watts off
  • Monitor – 43 watts on/ 1 watt off
  • Small stereo – 32 watts on/ 4 watts off
  • Laptop – 30 watts on, 1 watt off
  • Printer – 13 watts on/ 4 watts off
  • Scanner – 10 watts on/ 2 watts off
  • Wireless router – 4 watts on/ 2 watts off
  • Cell phone charger – 4 watts on/ 0.1 watts off

Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

4 Reactions
  1. Thanks for the information, Kelly.

    Let me share with you and the Small Business Trends community what drives me crazy;

    1. When my daughter leaves on lights, and fans when she leaves a room for more than an hour or so

    2. When my daughter leaver her cell phone charger plugged in. (While her phone is with her!)

    3. Working with businesses and even colleges that insist on keeping all of their PC’s on 24 hours a day.


    The Franchise King

  2. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s good to get in the habit of turning off lights, unplugging chargers, etc. while you’re still young. However, it may not take so long once you start paying your own electric bills. 🙂


  3. Small business forum

    It’s amazing how all the Little things add up.

    I had a look around my office, all the things left on standby power is amazing!

    Makes you want to just flick the “main” switch when you leave for the day!


  4. Martin Lindekskog

    Kelly Spors:

    Is it not the case that if you turn on and off electrical equipment all the time, the lifespan of the products will dramatically be reduced?

    The best thing is to get cheaper electricity and more economically gadgets. I will tell you about a very interesting new energy source in the future…