Gold, Marion [faculty advisor, College of Environmental Life Sciences]




computer energy use, behavior change, energy policy


As universities search for ways to cut costs in a tough economic climate, many are attempting to make their buildings more efficient in order to save energy and reduce expenditures. While implementing efficient technologies is an important first step to reducing consumption, encouraging energy conservation behavior is also a key component. A significant source of energy consumption that can be reduced with behavior change is computer usage.

Desktop computers consume an average of 60-500 watts when in active use, whereas in standby energy use drops to 2-6 watts. Translated into kilowatt hours, a computer using 60 watts for one hour will use 60 watt hours or .06kWh. With the current average price at $0.13 per kWh and assuming that most computers are left on for 24 hours a day without utilizing standby mode, the cost can range from $70-$600 per computer per year. With an estimated 10,000 computers on the URI Kingston Campus, energy consumption and energy costs are significant.

The objective of this project is to measure the effectiveness of providing a simple educational message to encourage computer users to put their computers in standby mode when not in use. The project will begin by using energy meters to measure baseline energy use in a computer lab. Concurrently, a survey will be conducted to quantify student computer usage and to identify attitudes and awareness of computer energy use issues. Based on survey results, a simple educational message asking students to put their computers in standby mode will be designed for display in the computer lab. The effectiveness of the message as a tool to change student behavior will be assessed by measuring energy use in the lab after the message has been displayed.

The results of the study will provide guidance to campus leaders regarding the effectiveness of a low cost educational program to reduce computer energy consumption. The project will help university officials evaluate whether an investment in a more expensive energy management program is warranted to reduce computer energy consumption or if education alone can reduce energy use.

Included in

Economics Commons