As promised, Bush orders less standby power use

As promised, Bush orders less standby power use

'We expect agencies to be ridding themselves of the vampires and using energy conservation devices.'

President Bush recently made good on his promise to instruct agencies to buy equipment that uses less electrical power while switched off.

His new executive order outlines a strategy for government purchasers to buy low-standby-power devices as long as it's practical and economical for them to do so [GCN, July 16, Page 1].

Standby power is the amount of electricity that an appliance uses when it is switched off or in its lowest possible power mode while still connected to a source of electrical current, said Alan K. Meier, an energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. It is occasionally called no-load power consumption.

Office devices that commonly consume large amounts of standby power include computer monitors, cellular phone chargers, printers, copiers and fax machines.

Made to order

According to the executive order, when agencies buy off-the-shelf equipment that uses external power supplies or has an internal standby power function, they should buy products that consume no more than 1 watt of standby power. If such products are not available, the government should buy devices with the lowest possible standby power usage.

'Agencies shall adhere to these requirements, when life-cycle cost-effective and practicable and where the relevant product's utility and performance are not compromised as a result,' according to the executive order.

The order also charges the Energy Department, in consultation with the Defense Department and the General Services Administration, with drawing up an annual list of products that meet the new requirement.

Within Energy, that job would fall to the Federal Energy Management Program, the agency responsible for reducing energy and water costs throughout government. Office products that may wind up on the list include PCs, monitors, fax machines and portable computers.

Bush promised he would sign such an order when visiting Energy headquarters in late June. At the time, he dubbed products that use lots of standby power as 'vampire devices.'

'And so we've set what we call a 1-watt standard throughout the federal government, that we expect our agencies to be ridding themselves of the vampires and using energy conservation devices,' Bush said when he signed the executive order July 31 in the Oval Office.

'There's no question that by calling attention to it, President Bush has alerted manufacturers to the need to reduce standby power,' Meier said.

In many cases, the incremental costs of making current energy vampires compliant with the 1-watt standard are small, and the technology is not that difficult, Meier said.
Many manufacturers of VCRs have reduced their products' standby power to roughly 1.5 watts, Meier said. Some TV sets now use less than 1 watt when turned off.

It may well be possible to make a modem use less than 1 watt in standby with the proper power supply, Meier said.

Another motivation for manufacturers to develop appliances that use less standby power is the European Commission's 1-year-old Code of Conduct on Efficiency of External Power Supplies, Meier said.

Signatories to this document, which include several American manufacturers, pledged to make their products' external power supplies use no more than 1 standby watt by this year and no more than 0.75 standby watt by January 2003.

In the wake of recent developments, Meier and his Berkeley Lab colleagues are upgrading their Web site on standby power issues, at


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