Office equipment is at the heart of a company’s operations. You can’t just flip a switch at the end of the day and cut power to the entire building. We know what happens the heart stops working completely. Instead, we assume that most things in our office go to sleep. Our pulse slows down when we’re at rest. That’s what your office does when everyone goes home for the day. Are you sure?
Before you dismiss the question because you’ve got a building full of “smart” office equipment that does go to sleep when not in use, ask yourself how many of your employees keep a constantly plugged-in phone charger at their office desk so they can bring that battery back up before they head out the door.
It’s one of the 30 or more things using what’s known as “phantom power” found in a typical office. To be fair, you can go online and find research-backed articles proving there’s negligible power consumption by a plugged-in mobile device charger not in use. This may be so, but taken as a whole, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in our country alone, “vampire power” consumption costs consumers more than $3 billion a year.

Off, but not really

Have we been deceived by the manufacturers of these products? Not really. It’s true that many office electronics consume far less power when they’re in a “sleep” mode. Our hearts continue to beat when we’re sleeping, but at a greatly reduced rate. It’s the same for each piece of office equipment in your office that enters a sleep mode when not in use. But they are still consuming electricity.
This is because we want “instant on.” So our monitors, printers, copy machines, and a host of other devices have standby power modes to give us that immediate gratification of jumping to life when we touch our mouse or send a file for a hard copy.
The power consumption is a fraction of the amount this equipment uses when they are – for lack of better term – fully awake. But let’s put it into a big-picture perspective again. As they say in Italy…

Mangia, mangia!

According to the University of California, Berkeley, about 5% of the all the electricity consumed annually in our country is vampire power. It’s an average of about 300 terawatt hours. It’s close to the amount of electricity consumed by the entire country of Italy in a year.
Before we grab a stake and go chasing after manufacturers for being deceitful, let’s remember that we’ve asked them to keep our devices at the ready for us. And they are being truthful with the big glossy “Energy-Efficient” labels they slap on the office equipment we buy (and home appliances, too)!
This equipment is indeed using energy efficiently. When not in use, it consumes less energy. Is that not the definition of efficiency? The only way to make just about any modern piece of electronic equipment consume no energy when unused is to unplug it.

”Like that’s going to happen at my office.” Impractical solutions hardly ever work. There are, however, easy ways to cut down on your office’s use of vampire electricity. Enough to make a difference?
Not if it’s the only effort you make to consume energy more wisely, but it can add up. Look for actionable tips in our next post.