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The art of saving energy

You can save office energy from common sense; turn off the lights, printers, and PCs when you go home. But other, more nuanced tips can help you save even more. From laptop and gadget battery use to hardware leeching energy even when off, here are some of my favorite ways to save energy and money.

Your laptops and portable devices likely run on Lithium Ion batteries, the current standard for rechargeables. But advice that had been good for previous battery technologies now differs with this current crop.

Recharge the batteries as often as possible. With Lithium Ion, there's no benefit in letting the batteries run out to the end before recharging. You should leave laptops plugged in while working, too.

However, continue to use the batteries regularly. If your laptop is constantly plugged in, run it for a few hours on the battery every day or two. The Lithium Ion batteries work best when occasionally used and recharged.

Store unused batteries at room temperature. First charge them to about half power. Batteries can lose efficiency when stored with too much charge, although your greater threat is storing a battery without charge.

Throughout storage, the battery charge will drain, and if it ever gets completely empty, it might never be able to be recharged. Keep this in mind especially for media players and other gadgets; I've dug several out of storage with irreparable batteries, since they lost all charge in a closet.

Expect to replace your batteries about every two years. You can't improve life by conditioning the battery—fully charging and discharging—however, you might be able to reset the charging circuits.

Sometimes through general use, those circuits lose track of a charge and cheat you out of the full battery's abilities. Try a full recharge, full discharge until the laptop turns off, and full recharge again consecutively. This might regain some of the battery's storage.

Follow these tips to make your batteries last as long as possible. And wait until you need a replacement before buying a new one, since stored, old batteries don't work as well, even if never-before-used.

Make energy-efficient replacementsI doubt your business uses any PCs or laptops that lack Energy Star certification, but if so, replace those whenever possible. You'll see a modest savings in your power bill.

Better yet, replace old technology with more energy efficient alternatives. If your employees can use–or even prefer–laptops versus desktop PCs, go for those, since they only sip at outlets. If you still have old CRT displays, replace those with LCDs for another big benefit.

Power can keep running when offYour devices have several states of “off,” all of which use power differently. When your PC is sleeping, it uses less energy than if it were on, but it still draws more power than if it were fully off. You can make small savings by actually turning computers off.

Additionally, devices often still use a little power when they claim to be off. Battery chargers are the biggest culprits, taking electricity whenever plugged in. But most other hardware still draws a few watts when off. Turn off the power strip to completely stop this trickle.

Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco.

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