Energy bills rising? These tips may help

From the datacenter to the mobile employee, eco-friendly products IT managers should consider

You don’t have to be a tree hugger to want to reduce your company’s energy consumption. High energy costs and increasing power requirements are driving enterprises to pay closer attention to energy usage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s overhauled Energy Star ratings for computers also have many IT managers thinking more about how to go green.

 View a slide show of the products.

But where do you start? If you’ve already replaced the incandescent light bulbs in your office with compact fluorescent bulbs, and you’re ready to take the next environmental step, check out our list of green-friendly IT products that could be a fit for your enterprise.

Product: SprayCool M-Series

Company: SprayCool

Technology: Data center liquid cooling system keeps rack-mounted servers cool by removing heat from each server’s CPU, and then from the data center, through a heat exchange with the system’s water loop. The SprayCool M-Series system can support up to 10,800 watts per rack.

Claim to green fame: The cooling system allows data center operators to fully populate racks -- conserving data center space -- while reducing energy consumption and the strain on air-conditioning units. The M-Series system itself is energy efficient, requiring 200 watts per rack.

Potential savings: Typical data centers can reduce their total facility power consumption by 40% or more, SprayCool claims.

Cost: $25,500

Launched: November 2006

Customers: Liberty Lake Internet Exchange, Callison, Mountain Gear

Product: Earth-PC and Earth-Server

Company: Tech Networks of Boston

Technology: Environmentally friendly PCs and servers.

Claim to green fame: Tech Networks says its computers use 25% less power than standard gear due largely to the use of energy-efficient power supplies certified by Ecos Consulting’s 80 PLUS Program. The 80 PLUS performance specification requires power supplies in computers and servers to be 80% or greater energy efficient. The power supplies “waste less power as heat, resulting in additional savings on air conditioning costs,” says Yves Dehnel, a project manager at Tech Networks. Earth-PC and Earth-Server also have the ability to shut down components when idle to further reduce power consumption. The company says they meet the EPA’s updated Energy Star Computer Specifications, which are due to go into effect in July.

Potential savings: Switching from a standard PC to an Earth-PC will save a customer about $300 in energy costs over five years, the company says. The Earth-Server promises to save users $1,500 annually in lower energy costs over the same time period. For more details, check out the company’s cost saving calculator.

Cost: $669 to $1,299 for Earth-PC and $1,634 for Earth-Server

Launched: April 2006

Customers: Phoenix Bay State Construction, Boston Day and Evening Academy, Green Roundtable/Nexus Green Building Resource Center

Product: Surveyor 4.0

Company: Verdiem

Technology: Verdiem’s Surveyor software helps businesses measure, manage and reduce the energy usage of PCs on their networks. The tool centralizes control of the power settings of networked PCs; IT managers can create power-management policies and schedule preset shutdown times for PCs, for example. The software runs as a service on Windows NT, 2000, XP and Vista client machines and as an application on Windows 95, 98 and ME client devices. If you’ve deployed Macs, you’re out of luck; the product currently supports only Windows PCs.

Claim to green fame: Surveyor 4.0 powers down networked computers not in use to reduce energy usage. Monitoring features track energy consumption on an ongoing basis.

Potential savings: Surveyor 4.0 can cut 100 to 300 kilowatt-hours of annual energy use from every PC -- which translates to $20 in cost savings for each PC annually, on average, Verdiem claims.

Cost: One-time licensing fee of $25 per PC. Some utilities offer rebates for customers that use Surveyor.

Launched: Version 4.0 unveiled in March 2007

Customers: City University of New York, City of Boston and QuadGraphics.

Product: Sonata

Company: Boston Power

Technology: Rechargeable notebook lithium-ion battery. The company says it’s using proprietary safety features that include slower chemical kinetics, current interrupt devices, thermal fuses and pressure relief vents. These features allow the batteries to charge in less time than a traditional battery and last longer.

Claim to green fame: Batteries charge to 80% power in 30 minutes, whereas standard batteries take as long as two to three hours to charge. In addition, Boston Power says its batteries will last the life of an average notebook computer -- three years -- without losing performance.

Potential savings: Reduced power consumption and the benefit of being able to quickly recharge a laptop battery.

Cost: Company has not revealed costs.

Launched: Not yet available. Boston Power is working to include the batteries in HP laptops.

Customers: None yet

Product: Sun Ray 2

Company: Sun

Technology: Sun Ray 2 is the latest generation of Sun’s 8-year-old thin client technology, which now lets users access applications on multiple platforms, including Sun, Java, Linux, Unix and Windows servers. The Sun Ray 2FS adds a built-in fiber optic port and dual-head capabilities that let users connect to two monitors that act as a single screen.

Claim to green fame: Sun Rays use about 4 watts of electricity -- which is the equivalent of a night light and roughly 20% of what a typical PC requires. Sun Ray 2 clients can potentially be used for up to 20 years, whereas traditional PCs are typically refreshed after about four years, Sun claims.

Potential savings: Sun Ray 2 clients cost less than individual PCs, use only 4 watts of electricity, and claim to last longer than standard PCs. Customers also can benefit from reduced PC administration costs, according to a Forrester Research report commissioned by Sun.

Cost: Sun Ray 2 $249, Sun Ray 2FS $499

Launched: April 2006

Customers: Verizon Wireless, Reuters Beijing, U.S. Navy

Product: Laptops with LED screens

Company: Sony, Fujitsu

Technology: Sony’s Vaio TXN10 and Fujitsu’s Lifebook P7230 are portable notebook computers with screens that use light-emitting diode (LED) technology that promises better, brighter images and lower power consumption than traditional notebook screens. Apple and HP are promising to deliver portable computers with LED screens later this year.

Claim to green fame: LED screens are more efficient than the fluorescent lamps used to light most laptop screens. In addition, LED backlights don’t include the toxic chemical mercury, which typically is used in the fluorescent lamps to brighten LCDs.

Potential savings: LED screens are said to use 12% less energy than traditional laptop screens. Some reviews of the Sony Vaio TX series say a single battery charge could last nine or more hours.

Cost: Sony TXN10 costs about $2,300; Fujitsu Lifebook P7230 ranges from $1,649 to $2,179.

Launched: Sony Vaio TXN10 in September 2006; Fujitsu Lifebook P7230 in February 2007

Customers: Not disclosed

Product: Voltaic Messenger Bag

Company: Voltaic Systems

Technology: Solar-powered bag lets hard-core road warriors recharge cell phones and other small electronic gear on the go.

Claim to green fame: Solar panels installed on the bag can recharge devices without using electricity. The bag itself is environmentally friendly, made of recycled soda bottles.

Potential savings: Users don’t have to find and tap an electrical outlet or car charger.

Cost: $229

Launched: Products made of recycled soda bottles started shipping in 2007.

Customers: Companies that have purchased the bags include HP, Intel and Conergy. Retail stores include THE Museum of Modern Art and Red Envelope. Other buyers include Peace Corps volunteers “plus a number of movie stars who I don't feel at liberty to name,” a company spokesman says.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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