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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Green A/V technology: saving money and the environment

In recent years, the ‘go green’ concept has revolutionized nearly every industry and has pushed companies to make sometimes drastic changes to their business model, whether it’s adding more eco-friendly products to their offerings or just revamping the way they use waste. Most recently, several of the audio visual industry’s biggest players in lighting, presentation, and wireless communication systems have developed state-of-the-art products and services that help companies decrease their impacts on the environment while still increasing productivity.

One of the largest sources of energy waste for most companies involves their facility lighting. All of us are guilty at one time or another of leaving an empty room’s light on, and many office spaces are actually “overlit”, leading to increased energy costs, higher demands on local energy supplies, and in turn an increase in carbon emissions as more energy is created. Lighting controls integrator Lutron Electronics, for example, created the EcoSystem line that includes occupant sensors to determine when lights are no longer needed in a space, personal lighting controls that allow employees to change their light settings from their PC, and daylight harvesting software that adjusts electric lighting based upon the amount of sunlight in the room.

Draper Inc., a solar control and projection screen manufacturer, produces screens made from GreenGuard certified materials that do not release potentially harmful chemicals into the air over the course of time. Although these fabrics were originally created for use in schools, they work well in any office space, especially where employees may have asthma or strong allergies. Using a projection system in lieu of a large monitor or LCD panel also helps decrease energy usage because projectors take less electricity to run and are more likely to be shut off by employees once a presentation is completed. Even digital signage solutions are becoming more energy-efficient: many monitor manufacturers, such as Mitsubishi, are creating panels with built-in scheduling features that allow their operation to be put on a timer to prevent them from running constantly.

So how exactly do “green” technology products benefit the environment? The US Department of Energy reports that generating 1 Megawatt hour of energy leads to the burning of 810 pounds of coal and releases over 1 ton of carbon dioxide. Commercial lighting also produces heat that, in summer months or warm climates, must be replaced with cool air by the air conditioner. With more sensitive lighting control and less light usage, the space’s air conditioner works less and also uses less energy. And that’s not all: studies have shown that being able to control their own lighting surroundings can increase employees’ productivity by up to 7 percent.

Cutting your energy usage saves you money, too. Besides using less energy and therefore incurring less costs from the energy company, decreasing energy consumption during peek demand hours may actually earn you rebates from your energy company. This practice can also help prevent blackouts, similar to the one experienced in the Northeast region of the country in 2003. And nothing impedes productivity more than an electricity shortage! It’s not difficult to get your company on the road to greener practices (and pastures): all it takes is a little commitment and the right AV equipment, and you’ll be a regular Captain Planet in no time!

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