Hardware

Cut energy costs with these display device strategies

Here are some simple practices to reduce power consumption, along with advice on buying more energy-efficient equipment.


You can reduce energy costs for your organization by using display devices in your computer room or data center more efficiently and by using more efficient devices. Here are a few easy-to-implement practices to cut your energy costs, along with recommendations for purchasing equipment that will require less energy to meet your display device needs.

Display device consolidation
Some organizations prefer to have each system in a computer room on its own display device simply because the units are available and there's enough space to accommodate them. But some consolidation strategies can diminish the power requirements for all display devices. Using a KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) controller to have multiple devices on a single display unit (as well as mouse and keyboard consolidation) can save space and display device energy costs. If you like being able to glance at a room to check on the status of all connected devices, you may want a KVM unit that can automatically cycle through them on a timed interval to give a periodic visual on a system.

Basic practices
Energy savings can be realized by simple configuration changes and matters of practice to lower the power consumption of the devices you already use. Although it's difficult to measure and quantify the cost savings that these strategies provide, they will allow you to use less energy for your display devices. Consider the following:
  • Use power-save features of your operating systems for display devices. Most operating systems will, by default, send displays "to sleep" after a specified amount of time.
  • Turn off display devices when not in use.
  • Run computers headless and access all functions over the network, if this fits your operational requirements.
  • Use smaller devices where possible, since they generally require less power than larger devices.
  • Select black as a default background color. Bright desktop or background colors actually consume additional power. A black background gives a clear visual organization to the desktop as well as using less energy.

Thermal considerations
The more devices used in a data center or computer room, the more exhaust will be emitted and the higher the temperature will be in the room. This can lead to increased energy costs to maintain climate control for the computer room or data center. By consolidating devices and following the practices listed above, you can use your thermal control system more efficiently. You may also want to consider using liquid crystal display (LCD) units, which generate less heat. Here's a look at some additional benefits of LCD devices.

Using LCD devices
LCD units use anywhere from 30 to 60 percent less wattage than a traditional monitor (CRT) of comparable size and performance. For example, a popular 17-inch LCD unit has a power consumption of 52 watts, and its 17-inch CRT counterpart has a power consumption of 90 watts.

Let's consider a ballpark nationwide average of $0.10 per kilowatt/hour (this rate ranges from $0.05 to $0.15 depending on location, type of power, demand, etc.) and 24-hour usage, such as what you might find in a data center or computer room. To calculate the approximate monthly cost of power consumption for this comparison, we'll employ the following formula:
kilowattsused = (Display device wattage X hours used per day) / 1000
(kilowatts X 30 days X cost per kilowatt hour) = Monthly Power Cost

Using this formula, the approximate cost of using the LCD 24 hours a day is $3.74 per month. If you use this device for three years, the extended power cost for the life of the device would be $134.78.

By comparison, if you had a CRT device consuming 90 watts with the same usage requirements, its monthly power consumption would be $6.48, and its three-year usage cost would be $233.68. So simply using the LCD device for the same requirement over three years of 24-hour usage would give a savings of nearly $100. In locations with high energy costs (such as California), this savings can exceed $130 over the three-year term (assuming a $0.14 rate).

The power savings of using LCD devices increases when comparing larger display units. For example, over three years of constant use, a popular 21-inch LCD could offer power usage savings of more than $200 (and more than $290 in California, assuming a $0.14 rate) over a 21-inch CRT from the same manufacturer.

Of course, the 24-hour-a-day usage for display units does not apply to all server room environments, but it's a good indication of potential savings—especially since energy costs are not likely to decline. And although the energy savings of using an LCD device over a CRT device might not necessarily justify the purchase price difference, you may be able to make a strong case for LCD units if you factor in the space savings and generally better display quality.

ENERGY STAR
When purchasing new equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR logo on the device. This will assure you that this product meets specific criteria offering low-power modes that can be used for power-save features of common operating systems. It also guarantees that the device is optimized to run at this mode, extending device life.

Going forward
You can achieve energy savings on display devices by using your current equipment more efficiently as well as through the judicious purchase of new equipment. Do you have any energy-saving practices for display devices in your server rooms that you can share? If so, post a comment and share your suggestions with other TechRepublic members.

About Rick Vanover

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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