On average, computers across the United States are accountable for using around 1 percent of the nation’s commercially available electricity. What’s more, they use more electricity than all other office machines put together. Most likely, a large percentage of your company’s electric costs go towards powering computers. You can help get those costs under control by using EnergyStar’s EZ Save.

What’s using all the power?
Of the electricity used to power computer systems, monitors consume a substantial part of it. When active, monitors use about 75 watts on average; in Sleep Mode, they use only about 3.5 watts. Of course, 95 percent of the monitors sold within the last 3-5 years come with the ability to go into Sleep Mode after a certain period of inactivity, so it’s a good idea to use it.

The problem is that many users don’t take advantage of Sleep Mode, and the monitor won’t go into sleep mode by itself if it detects a signal coming from the computer’s video card. Microsoft has supported Sleep Mode in monitors since Windows 95 as an option on the operating system’s screen saver, but many users don’t turn it on.

What’s the overall impact of not enabling Sleep Mode? EPA estimates based on the over 55 million office computers in the U.S. indicate that over 11 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) could be saved through monitor power management. This adds up to an unnecessary economic cost of over $900 million. Eleven billion kWh will also power over one million households for a year. Another way to look at it is that if monitors weren’t constantly glowing at nothing, the energy saved would result in CO2 reductions that are the equivalent to preventing emissions from over 1 million cars or planting almost three million acres of trees.

What’s EZ Save?
If your users can’t—or won’t—enable Sleep Mode on their monitors, you can do it for them using EZ Save. EZ Save is an advanced power management suite for monitors from EnergyStar—that’s the company whose logo you see at the top right of your screen when you boot your machine.

The thing that makes EZ Save great for organizations running large numbers of computers is that it can be centrally administered. That means you don’t have to visit every individual machine to configure its power management settings.

EZ Save has two major parts to its operation. The first is Sampling; the second is Activation. Sampling uses the network to connect to individual computers to ascertain what their monitor settings are in terms of shutdown time, screensavers, etc. Activation is where client machines are required to run an activation file from a network share, which will alter local monitor settings if necessary. EZ Save also has a reporting function that administrators can use to view sample results and print if needed.

EZ Save will not run on Windows NT 4. That’s because NT doesn’t have an option for power management. However, it will run on most other flavors of Windows, including Windows 9x, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.

Obtaining and installing EZ Save
The first thing to do is download and install the EZ Save Package. You can get this directly from EnergyStar’s Web site. The package is only 6.7 MB, so it will download fairly quickly.

To start the installation, execute the EZ_Save31_SETUP.exe file you just downloaded. This starts a basic Windows Installation Wizard. Follow the instructions onscreen to install EZ-Save on your system. You can then start EZ Save’s Administration program by clicking Start | Programs | EZ Save Administration | EZ Save.

On the first screen, shown in Figure A, you’ll see the logical starting point, where you set parameters for sampling. (Sampling is the process of gathering information from the clients on your network.) At the bottom of the screen, you have three navigation buttons to toggle between the Sample Setup, Report, and Activation Setup screens.

Figure A
Here you’ll configure EZ Save’s options.

The Sample Name (Step 1) is the name of the file containing the sample data. In Step 2, you have the option to move the sample data file to another location—perhaps to a network share where other administrators can view the data to familiarize themselves with EZ Save. Step 3 involves setting what information is collected from client machines; by default, EZ Save collects the Username and the Computer Name.

Step 4 is pretty useful and will help you run a tight ship because it allows you to create a resampling schedule for the network. This ensures that there is uniformity among client machines. The Restart Sample option allows you to manually resample the network because clients are only polled once when they first run the logon script. The first time you run EZ Save, you don’t need to check this box, and it may be grayed out. The Save Settings button saves the sample parameters to EZ_Sample.ini, which users then connect to at log on. The Copy Sample Files To Server button takes the files in the NetworkFiles folder (itself a subfolder of the installation directory) and copies them to a publicly accessible network share that clients connect to via a logon script. That’s sampling in a nutshell.

Creating reports
One of the nicest features of EZ Save is that it will allow you to create usage reports. These reports allow you to determine how EZ Save is being used and how much power you’re actually saving.

To start the reports, select Power Management Settings Report from the Window menu. This will display the screen shown in Figure B.

Figure B
You can create usage reports for EZ Save on this screen.

In Step 1, you need to select the sample data file that was built when clients ran the sample file at logon. The file has a .rpt extension. When you configure the Set Comparison Setting, you’ll set a benchmark monitor shutdown time, which will be applied to the sample file. The report will then show you how many machines fall within the benchmark time limit. You can then choose how much detail you want the report to produce.

Step 3, Set Report Option, allows you to set the amount of detail to include in the report. The Summary option just spits out totals, averages, and percentages while the Details option gives you user and computer names and so on, as well. In Figures C and D, you can see two sample reports.

Figure C
Here’s a sample report from EZ Save.

Figure D
EZ Save can also generate detailed reports.

Activation Setup
The Activation Setup screen determines how EZ Save will work on your workstations. You can find it by selecting Activation Setup from the Window menu. When you do, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Activation Setup controls how EZ Save works on workstations.

The first thing you do on this screen is set the monitor shutdown time in Step 1. You can change the time by changing the value of the Turn Monitor Off drop-down list box.

The Set EZ Reset Installation Option in Step 2 is helpful. It allows users to reset their monitors to their original settings if need be. Selecting the Install EZ Reset option will place a shortcut in the Start Menu and on the Desktop or just in the Start Menu on the client system that will allow the user to override settings.

Step 3, Set Level of User Control, governs the extent to which EZ Save Activation is required. You can choose User Choice, Activate Once (which would allow users to choose the option after the first activation), or Activate Always (which means that EZ Save would control all client monitor settings all the time).

Step 4, Restart Activation, allows you to push out new settings, if needed. So, if you make changes to how EZ Save is supposed to work, you can make the changes on this screen and then force the changes out to the EZ Save workstations.

Step 5 allows you to send custom messages to users. It is a good idea to alert your users when EZ Save is active, so they aren’t confused when their monitor powers down in their absence. You can configure User Messages in EZ Save Activation by switching to the User Messages tab at the top. Informational messages tell the user that settings are being applied. User Control Dialog messages are only displayed if User Choice is the chosen level of user control. Users will be prompted to choose the Activation choice at this point.

The Save The Activation Settings button in Step 6 saves the configuration in EZ_Active.ini. You’ll need to do this unless you want to constantly reinvent the wheel.

The last step, Copy Activation Files To Server, allows you to place the EZ Save files on a network share. These files should be copied to the network share point:

  • EZ_Active.exe
  • EZ_Active.ini (as created with the Administration program)
  • EZ_Sample.exe
  • EZ_Sample.ini (as created with the Administration program)
  • EZ_InsReset.exe
  • EZ_Reset.exe
  • EZ_Reset.lnk

The last three are only needed if you’re giving users the Reset option.

It’s as EZ as that
This about wraps up EZ Save, but remember that if you’re going to go to the trouble of setting it up, and if you want to save money on energy costs, you might as well make Activation mandatory and not give users the choice or ability to override the settings. If it really doesn’t work out and you get a lot of complaints, then EZ Save’s central administration features make it easy to roll out new activation settings.