When businesses are cutting energy use, energy bills don't give much insight into the costs from individual energy sappers, whether from a bank of computers or printers that are always on.
The new Consumer Electronics Energy Calculator, a tool from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), aims to give a peek at the costs of those typical products.
"It calculates how much per month and per year the consumer electronics cost to power, and that can be applied to your house or a business," said Samantha Nevels, coordinator of policy communications for the CEA.
Although geared toward consumers, the calculator applies just as well to small businesses, home-based businesses and workers who telecommute, Nevels said, adding that many energy tips are just as relevant for businesses as for homes.
"Be power wise," she said. More products are including robust energy management settings. Learn and use them, Nevels said, and also take the simple step of turning things off when they aren't being used.
Replacing products can also make a big impact. On the one hand, you can swap in Energy Star rated products. You can also downsize how many electronics are around by buying multi-function devices to replace individual printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines.
The calculator works based on how many of a certain product -- computer, laptop, modem, TV, copier, etc. -- a home or business has, as well as how long those products are turned on or charging each day.
It gives out an estimated monthly and yearly energy cost, along with a score that compares it to the average household, though that's not as relevant for businesses users.
"The cost would be the same, though" Nevels said.
Since the tool gives out estimated costs based on general product categories, it doesn't give the nitty-gritty details of whether specific product models are more or less cost-efficient than others.
There are some options for getting those details, such as Dell's energy calculator that covers three of its product lines, allowing customers to compare products based on a variety of details such as processor, memory, and monitor size and type.
But due to ongoing energy efficiency improvements, there are bigger savings to be made in switching to newer models and keeping power off when not needed than trying to dive deep into the small differences between products.
Canon USA found that out last year when it announced it saved more than $300,000 over two years through a number of energy initiatives, which included replacing 4,000 computer monitors with LCD models and exchanging 550 printers with multifunction devices.
Another aspect of Canon’s strategy was setting its lights to only be on during working hours instead of switched on all day and all night.
Nevels said that’s another key energy opportunity for businesses, along with investigating their options for scheduling heating and cooling. Modern controls offer companies the ability to finely program when their environmental controls kick on and off.
Whether it's through automation or just changing habits, getting rid of the vampire load can help companies rack up their savings.