By Barbara Kessler

If you’re looking to upgrade your home office, then you’ve probably already realized that this is a great opportunity to green your workspace and put some hard-earned cash back in your pocket at the same time.canonesprinter.jpg

Computers and printers are getting increasingly energy efficient and the ENERGY STAR program stands ready to help you find the most efficient office machines that are suited to your needs. So before facing down the intimidating brigade of electronics at your office supply store, check out the ENERGY STAR online search tools for office equipment. There’s one search query set up for computers and one for printers where you can type in the brand(s) and functions that you are seeking. The database then spits out a list of the models that fit your requirements and also qualify for ENERGY STAR designation.

Now you’re ready to head to the store with a winnowed list, which is only fair as you’ll still have to hack your way through comparisons of gigabytes, processors, operating systems, GPS and webcam options if you’re looking for a computer, not to mention having to decipher what printers do now, like printing with “dye sublimation” or PictBridge technology. Oh my, dpi.

While ENERGY STAR has been criticized at times for not raising the bar high enough, the program did revise its standards for computers in 2007, tightening the requirements for Energy Star qualification to reflect the fact that computers are now used many hours each day in a typical American home.

Computers, as you might imagine, are one of the top energy-consuming electronics in most households. Among common home electronics, only analog televisions exceed the energy use of the home computer, according to one ENERGY STAR analysis.

Qualified computers must now meet energy use guidelines when performing a range of tasks and while operating in three modes: active use, standby and “sleep”. This was considered the best way to ensure energy savings. Newly qualified Energy Star computers also must include a more efficient internal power supply.

Despite the new stricter guidelines, some 400 laptop, desktop and game consoles now qualify for the new ENERGY STAR specification, said Maria Vargas, a spokeswoman for the program.

The guidelines for Energy Star copier/fax machines also were revised in 2007 and aim for significant energy savings, because these machines are often left on all day long in a home or business office.