Ranking products as Energy Star compliant is a good starting point towards encouraging companies to head in a greener direction. However, this system also has drawbacks and should not be used by itself as a gauge of the energy consumption or efficiency of a product.
Whilst a 13-inch and 42-inch computer monitor may both have an Energy Star rating, the 42-inch monitor uses a great deal more energy than the smaller monitor. The energy consumed also depends on how the computer or equipment is being used. For example, far more energy is saved turning the power off on a non-Energy Star compliant computer or appliance when not in use, rather than leaving a compliant one on overnight.
Relying solely on ratings such as Energy Star to reduce a company's carbon consumption can give the user a false sense of 'saving the planet'.
One of the best ways of rating the energy usage of products is the A-G ranking system used on fridges and freezers. Fridges are large consumers of energy as they are constantly running, so it is important to buy an energy efficient model.
Thanks to improvements made by manufacturers, models are more energy efficient than ever before and are rated A++ or A+*. In comparison, the Energy Star rating is almost too simplistic. It is either a 'yes' this product is Energy Star compliant or 'no' this product is not. But how energy efficient is 'yes'?
Developing products that are truly green does not involve fancy 'add-ons' or energy ratings; it just requires sensible engineering from the bottom up.
Simplicity is the watchword when 'going green'. Manufacturers need to look at how a product is powered, what lighting is being used and assess what is really required. For example, data centres and server rooms are full of LEDs that nobody ever looks at.
There is no reason for LED lights to be switched on constantly as, even though each light uses very little power, if you think about how many millions of LED lights there are on appliances, it all adds up.
It is by intelligently re-designing and re-engineering existing technology that manufacturers will make truly green products, even through simple things like installing a smaller internal fan.
The fan most widely used in switches and similar types of product requires a high level of energy to turn the rotor blades, generates noise and is more prone to failure than most other internal components. If this product contains only a single, small internal fan on the main chipset, it runs with a near silent operation, uses less power and is more reliable.
Another consideration is why the same amount of power is driven through all the cables connected to a switch. Some of the cables will need the power to reach their full length, whilst others may only be a couple of metres long and driving the full amount of power through them is a waste.
In the future businesses will be increasingly driven by commercial pressures and the need to economise, so they will naturally look to reduce the amount of power they consume in data centres and large networked systems.
Allied Telesis has taken its products back to the drawing board and is carefully re-engineering them from scratch, and this is what all manufacturers should be doing. Until a more stringent rating system is introduced, the onus is on the equipment buyer to investigate the product purchased to ensure it is truly green and not just 'Energy Star compliant'.
Melvyn Wray is the Allied Telesis Senior Vice President of Marketing EMEA.