Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 3 – Switch to Low Energy PCs

Part three of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.

My next tip is to think about the energy usage of your computers in school. According to the latest research from BESA, primary schools have an average of 50 computers per school, and secondary schools have an average of 328 – a huge increase over a decade ago, and also one of the reasons why schools are now typically spending more on energy than on ICT. As well as the big savings that can be made on servers, and through more effective power management settings on your computers, it is worth considering energy usage when you replace your computers.

In the past, schools have considered thin clients, but have recognised that there are limitations with their use – for example, with complex multimedia applications, or for advanced graphic design work. But there are now things that you can do that very effectively reduce your school’s electricity bill and give you a fully functioning computer.

The cost savings possible mean that this is something you should consider as you replace or buy new computers – it wouldn’t make financial sense to throw out existing computers that don’t need replacing yet.

Switch to laptops

Although laptops have other benefits of mobility and the chance to use them at home, one of the things that’s been rarely discussed is the fact that they use less power. A power supply for a laptop is typically rated at 50-70 watts (Although it’s important to say “YMMV” here – Your Mileage May Vary!), which is significantly lower than a typical desktop PC.

So as you bring more laptops into your school, and replace old desktops, you are reducing your electricity bill. Savings will vary depending on your current computers, and the easiest way to work it out could be to plug in a power monitor.

Switch to lower power computers

image A number of manufacturers have introduced lower-power desktop computers, which are based on conventional desktop computer design. The example I used when talking at BETT was the RM ecoquiet range, which are full desktop PCs consuming less energy than a traditional lightbulb. The picture on the right is a bit small to see, but it shows a computer and a lamp plugged into power monitors, and the complete PC including the monitor is using less than 50w. You can read an independent review of the ecoquiet range on Merlin John’s blog.

Switch to ultra-mini, lower power computers

imageOne step further is to switch to a different format, ultra-low power desktop. PARS Technology have a device called the I-Cute 270Q, which runs Windows 7 well, has 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard disk, but only uses 18 watts of power. I’m sure we’ll see more of these kind of devices in the future, as they are not only energy-efficient, but also space-efficient.

In your classroom, they have a practical advantage, because you can just attach it to the back of the monitor (it’s the little black box in the picture on the left) and get rid of the computer boxes on top of, or underneath, desks. The monitor, keyboard and mice plug into the system (which has 3 USB ports and an SD Card reader), and you’ve got yourself a very neat, fully functioning PC.

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