A few days ago, I received a package containing a product called the Eco Button. I read about this product on the internet and after a little searching, found the company’s contact information. I requested a unit to review for this blog and additionally for my interest. The company gladly sent me the Eco Button in the hopes that I might share some information about it (since there’s not a ton of info about it on the web).
Let me start out by saying that I found the concept of this device is quite interesting. The shtick is that by pushing the bright green LED button your computer goes into a state of deep sleep and therefore saves energy. The website has this to say:
“The Ecobutton™ acts as a strong visual reminder and prompt for you to save electricity each time your computer is going to be left idle.”
So the idea is that every time you leave your desk for a break or a meeting or for the day, you push this button and it manages your computer into hibernation/sleep/standby. Their argument for this device is that people don’t want to spend time putting their computer to sleep (which generally takes less than 3 exhaustive mouse clicks). Because of this fact, they have invented the device to be a one push button for accomplishing the same feat.
In terms of specifics, the Ecobutton is compatible with Windows NT based systems which include Windows 2000, XP, and 32 bit versions of Vista. Impact on your systems performance is a negligible 256kb of RAM and only takes up 5 MB of hard disk space. Ecobutton does not work for Mac OS X (even though the computers that they have pictured on their website are iMacs) but a future release for the platform could be in the works. The Q&A section of the Ecobutton website claims that “Some older computers and some hp computers may have difficulty in reactivation. This is a problem with the computer BIOS and not the software.” For laptops (which the tests were run on), I had to push the power button to reawaken my computer instead of just pushing the Ecobutton itself.
A gallery of pictures of the Ecobutton and screenshots will accompany this post, but I will give some details about the look and feel. The button itself is made of sturdy, RoHS compliant (recycled) plastic and is about the size of the Kennedy Half Dollar Coin. The cord that stretches from the button itself to the USB jack is around three feet long. Some may feel that the cord is not long enough, but I had no problems reaching it from the back of my computer to the front of my desk. A green LED (or perhaps a white LED with a green filter) fades in and out as the light turns on and off. The complete lit cycle is about 5 seconds from fade in to fade out with only a small lapse of dark time before the next cycle starts. If you flip the button over, you can see that three screws hold the unit together with a small circuit board visible through the translucent plastic.
When under actual practice, you depress the button and it appears to run a small script (an assumption from the command line popping up right before the computer goes into sleep mode. It then shuts your computer down into sleep mode waiting for you to power your system back up. I’m assuming that the Ecobutton software takes note of what time you push the button and what time you wake your computer to know how much power you have saved. I would also venture to say that the button doesn’t actually measure your power savings as it has no connection to the power jack on the wall.
One cool feature of this product is the so-called Ecobutton software which keeps track of the energy you have saved when your computer was in the Ecobutton-educed coma. My results after hitting the Ecobutton once and leaving the computer off for 49 seconds were saving 0.0027 power units; 0.0025 carbon units and 0.0004 dollars saved. These results were all apparently factored with the average cost of power per kWh as being $0.16. The software lets you input the type of monitor you have and what the size is. I would assume that the big consumer of electricity besides your computer are the monitors- especially the large CRT monitors of yesteryear. For more accurate results, I suggest users to put in their average kWh usage to better tailor thier results.
On the Ecobutton website, they have a nifty online spreadsheet (powered by Zoho) that calculates the amount of money that you could save then you use Ecobutton. This page lists the benefits of using Ecobutton. The coolest feature I think is that they use RoHS compliant plastics (recycled) in the Ecobutton. They also have a page that details why and how the Ecobutton can promote your business with a company logo splash page (this is the page that has the iMac with apple keyboard and mightymouse).
Pricing of this product varies depending on if you want a company customized splash screen. For just the Ecobutton you can get 100 units at $15.43; 1000 units at $10.52 and 5000 units at $8.60 per unit. There are intermediary price/quantity points, but I stuck with the round amounts. I will post a picture of the Ecobutton page in the Buzline catalog. Buzline is a company that proclaims they are “leaders and innovators of light up promotional products.” The next page of their catalog is basically the Ecobutton without the power saving report and it launches a website when you push the button.
In the end, I can see this product being useful in only a few areas. First, companies that have thier logo on the splash screen and give out the Ecobutton as a promotional product are certainly the target market. And second, the Ecobutton can be useful for increasing awareness among a specific group. If a university were to hand these out to a few hundred students at the beginning of the year and had some kind of promotional pitch to distribute them to other interested students, the university could save tons of money on energy. This could also work in K-12 schools and businesses.
I get the feeling that the Ecobutton is sort of like having a hybrid SUV. You might get a few more miles to the gallon, but you aren’t doing anything drastic to improve the health of the environment. I do believe that the makers of Ecobutton have though of a genuinely cool idea and have implemented it very well. I did not run into any snags while using it and I may even recommend it to others who are interested in spreading the word about green computing.
If you have any questions about the product or my experience, let me know in the comments.