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Conserving Energy Even When Not in Use?

Complying with the European Union's ErP Directive

Germany and other European nations are often said to be at the forefront of the environmental movement. Not only is personal environmental awareness high in Europe, but the societies themselves are built on an environmentally considerate framework. Part of this framework is provided by environmental regulations and legislation. In addition to relatively well-known legislation such as the RoHS Directive and REACH, which restrict the use of harmful substances, the EU has also enacted the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive for ecodesign, which puts restrictions on energy use.

The ErP Directive

On October 31, 2009, it was announced that environmentally considerate design would be required not only for energy-using products but also for all energy-related products. Revising the EuP Directive (Energy-using Products Ecodesign Directive) that was established in 2005, the new ErP Directive requires products to be designed to mitigate environmental impacts across product lifecycle, from design, development, and production through to use and eventual disposal. As a framework, however, the directive only lays out basic principles and processes. Specific eco-requirements, limit values, and so forth for different product categories will be established through extensive studies and discussions.
The ErP Directive targets a wide variety of products. These products are divided into nearly 30 different categories, called "lots." Study groups have been set up to examine implementation measures for the lots, which cover products such as televisions, personal computers, imaging equipment (e.g., printers), and audio/visual equipment (e.g., projectors). Some of the study groups are looking at issues that traverse multiple product groups. One such study group is the one looking into Lot 6 ("standby and off-mode losses"), which defines limits for energy use in standby and off mode.

Study Framework (Lots) for ErP Directive Implementation

Surprisingly high standby power

Many electronic products consume electrical power even when they are in a standby or off mode. A television that is turned off by a button on a remote control, for example, is in off mode. A PC is in standby when the monitor automatically turns black after the keyboard or mouse has not been touched for a period of time. In these modes equipment draws "standby power," the relatively small amount of electricity that equipment need to stay in a convenient "ready" state that allows it to be used quickly when needed. In 2005 standby and off-mode power accounted for a whopping 47-billion kilowatt hours of electricity in the EU. So-called "implementing measures" associated with Lot 6 are designed to reduce this power loss in stages by providing mandatory targets for standby power consumption (except the network standby defined in Lot 26). In the first stage, which starts in January 2010, standby and off-mode power must not exceed 1.0 W. In the second stage, starting in 2013, equipment must not consume more than 0.5 W in standby/off modes.
Moreover, a power management function must be offered. The power management function should automatically sense inactivity and, after a certain period of time, switch equipment into an energy-saving standby or off mode in which no more than 0.5 W is consumed. In other words, the electronic product senses that it is not being used and automatically enters an energy-saving mode. So, how is Epson responding to these new limits on standby power?


Getting an early jump on off-mode power requirements

Epson was unable to meet the 1 W off-mode power requirement that comes into effect as part of ErP Directive in 2010 for some large-format printer options until certain design changes were made.

EP-901A series printer

Epson has put quite a bit of effort over the years into making inkjet printers energy-efficient, so satisfying the limit values for off-mode has not presented any major challenges. The Company was quick to set and work toward an off-mode power target of 0.5 W, partly as a result of the company's early involvement in, and input into, the establishment of the framework for the original ErP Directive. The off-mode power of the models in 2008's EP-901 series was expected to be 0.6 W at the planning stage, but the engineering team made design changes to get this down to 0.5 W or less for Europe. The power management function required by 2013 is technically feasible using automatic switching to off-mode. However, there are still some issues that need to be resolved for networked printers.

Achieving compliance without sacrificing usability

Although Epson's laser printers now use 0.5 W in off-mode, achieving that level of consumption in standby mode is no easy matter, and it is made even more difficult when you factor in network connection. Printers are often used on a network, so usability would really suffer if a power management function were switching off power all the time. The challenge for Epson at the moment - and it is a big one - is to comply with the legislative requirements without sacrificing utility and ease-of-use for customers.




A team effort toward a 90% reduction

Keeping standby power to no more than 1 W is a huge challenge. This is because projectors consume more power than other products, and some of Epson's earlier models consumed 5 W or more in standby mode. Reducing that by 90%, to 0.5 W, was a huge undertaking. Epson had been coming out with progressively smaller, lighter projectors every year, but existing power supplies and circuits could not be used to reduce standby power. By redesigning the EB-X8 series, Epson not only made the products smaller and lighter but also reduced standby power consumption to 0.5 W or less when using 230 V. This was made possible by the collective effort of the whole projector division, from planning, design and development through to procurement and manufacturing. And the required power management function could be addressed with the function that automatically switches the products to standby mode after a certain period of time elapses without signal input, which was already built-in to Epson projectors.

Standby Power (at 230 V)

*Although there are slight differences depending on whether the product has, for example, network functionality or a remote control, "standby" generally refers to the energy-saving state that a switched on product automatically enters after its controls have not been operated for a certain period of time; "off-mode" is when the product is switched off (but still plugged in).