Sept. 10, 2009

Live Green loan helps college power down idle PCs

by Diana Pounds

All over campus, computers are whirring away without doing a lick of work. While their human operators are in meetings, down the hall, or out to lunch, the computers continue to draw power.

Information technology specialists in the College of Human Sciences recently set out to reduce the energy wasted by idling computers and monitors.

Sly Upah, director of IT and distance education, and David Wallace, desktop support specialist, decided to tackle the problem with a centralized power-managing system that can remotely turn off idle computers and monitors after specified amounts of time.

The loan

With a $3,000 loan from the Live Green loan fund, the college purchased PowerMan software to manage several hundred computers in the college.

Next, the IT specialists met with unit leaders in the college to determine when computers and monitors should be powered off or put into sleep mode. The new software allows for a variety of options.

About the fund

The Live Green Revolving Loan Fund provides interest-free loans for energy saving projects that offer a return on the investment.

"For example," Upah said, "if someone is logged in, but not using a computer, the software could be programmed to turn the monitor off after five minutes and the computer is suspended, after a pre-configured number of minutes. Or if no one is logged into an idle computer, the monitor and computer might be powered off more quickly."

Upah added that a person can always restart a computer that was remotely shut down simply by turning it on. If the computer is in sleep mode, the user can log back in by typing his or her password.

The payoff

IT staff began deploying PowerMan software on Human Sciences computers this summer, with more than 500 computers currently on the system. The energy savings are readily apparent.

"In some departments, idling computers were wasting energy up to 75 percent of the time," Wallace said. "On the power management system, waste is down to 25 percent in most cases."

Wallace estimated energy savings from the new system at approximately $125 per week.

Others take note

Other IT units on campus are watching the results of the Human Sciences' computer power management system, Upah said. With thousands of computers on campus, potential savings could be substantial.