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Covered Product Category: Computers

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for computers, a product category covered by the ENERGY STAR program. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies buy ENERGY STAR-qualified products in all product categories covered by this program and any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the efficiency criteria for this product category in its ENERGY STAR program requirements. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Visit the ENERGY STAR website for the most up-to-date computer efficiency levels and product specification information, and a list of qualified computers.

Executive Order 13693 requires that federal agencies promote electronic stewardship by purchasing environmentally sustainable electronic products. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.7 also requires the purchase of EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) registered products.1 In addition to meeting the ENERGY STAR requirements, EPEAT registered computers have other environmentally beneficial attributes (e.g., reduction or elimination of hazardous materials and end-of-life management). For current requirements and a list of registered products, visit the EPEAT website.

Certain computer products must also meet FEMP low standby power requirements. Standby power is the electricity consumed by a product when in the lowest energy consuming mode, which typically occurs when the product is switched off or not performing its primary function. For more information and list of complying products, visit the Low Standby Power Product List.


This acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR program requirements apply to desktop and integrated desktop computers, workstations, notebook computers, slates/tablets, portable all-in-one computers, thin-client, and small-scale servers (that are marketed for non-data-center use). All other computer products are excluded, including but not limited to docking stations, game consoles, e-readers, personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, handheld gaming devices, handheld computers with cellular voice capacity, smartphones, small-scale servers (for use in data centers), and mobile and ultra-thin clients.

The federal supply sources for computer products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells computer products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage! DLA sells them through its online supply network, DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with 13-digit National Stock Numbers (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). When buying computers through DLA sources, look for models with the ENACs shown in Table 1.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for eCommerce. It contains over 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each having a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Using the UNSPSCs will assist buyers with identifying covered product categories and improve record keeping. The UNSPSCs for computer products are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Product Codes for Computers
Computer Types DLA ENAC UNSPSC
Desktop Computers LF 43211507
Integrated Desktop Computers G3 43211500
Thin Clients == 43211506
Workstations JW 43211515
Notebook Computers HS 43211503
Slates/Tablets DB 43211500
Portable All-In-One Computers == 43211500
Small Scale Servers == 43211501



FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-qualified computer saves money if priced no more than $13 above the less efficient alternative. Note that many of the energy-saving benefits of ENERGY STAR computers are lost if power management features are disabled. In the example below, disabling power management features costs $9 in energy consumption per computer over the lifetime of the product. The cost-effectiveness example and associated assumptions are provided in Table 2.

Performancea ENERGY STAR (with power management enabled) ENERGY STAR (without power management enabled) Less Efficientb (without power management enabled)
Annual Energy Use 29 kWh/year 57 kWh/year 98 kWh/year
Annual Energy Cost $3 $5 $9
Lifetime Energy Cost (4 years) $9 $19 $32
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $22 $13 ======
a Federal purchases must be of ENERGY STAR-qualified products.
b The Less Efficient column represents low-efficiency computers used in non-federal commercial offices.



An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional upfront cost (if any) compared to a less-efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers upfront costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume that ENERGY STAR-qualified products are life-cycle cost-effective; however, users wishing to determine cost-effectiveness for their application may do so using the cost-effectiveness examples in Table 2 or the ENERGY STAR office equipment cost calculator.


ENERGY STAR-qualified products may not be life-cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications, or in locations with very low rates for electricity. For most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life-cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to these purchasing requirements through a written finding that no ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no ENERGY STAR-qualified product is life-cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Additional information on federal requirements is available.


These requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including project specifications; renovation, repair, maintenance, and energy service contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Energy efficiency requirements should be included in both the evaluation criteria of solicitations and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires federal agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into solicitations and contracts that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products. FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into both the technical specification and evaluation sections of solicitations.

Note that computers are often acquired through IT service providers. Make sure that such IT service contracts contain appropriate pass-through provisions to require the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products for all products acquired for federal use.


When purchasing computers, start by selecting ENERGY STAR-qualified products and then check Table 3 to see if the EPEAT or Low Standby Power requirements apply to the particular type. Some utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives.

Table 3. Resources for Finding Compliant Products
Computer Type Low Standby Power Lista EPEAT Registry ENERGY STAR Qualified Products Listb
Computer (desktop)c X X  
Computer (thin client)c
Computer (workstation)c
Computer (integrated)c   X X
Computer (notebook)c
Computers (slates/tablets)c
Computers (portable all-in-one)c     X
Computers (small scale servers)c
a All products within the Low Standby Product List are ENERGY STAR-qualified, if available. FEMP updates the Low Standby Product List monthly, using ENERGY STAR-qualified product lists.
b For these categories, FEMP has determined that greater than 80% of ENERGY STAR-qualified products meet or exceed a 1-watt standby power requirement.
c The ENERGY STAR product category "Computers" includes desktop, integrated, notebook, and workstation computers. It also includes thin clients and small-scale servers. Small-scale servers are not covered by EPEAT.


Use the link to the EPEAT Registry or Low Standby Power Product List to determine whether a product complies with requirements for federal purchases.

ENERGY STAR-qualified computers are required to have an 80 PLUS Bronze rated internal power supply. Some more powerful computers, such as those used for graphic design or computer-aided drafting, may benefit from a more efficient power supply. When ordering computers for these applications, consider specifying more efficient power supplies like those rated at 80 PLUS Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Almost all computers and workstations in federal facilities are connected to local area networks using Ethernet technology. Energy-Efficient Ethernet protocols and components are available that can provide additional savings. The switch (or router) and the computer must support this technology to achieve these savings.

Notebooks offer many of the same features as desktop models, plus portability. Because they are designed to operate from a battery power supply, they also tend to be more energy efficient. However, combining a notebook with an external monitor or docking station may increase power use.


Properly using the built-in power management features in personal computers is one of the most effective ways to save electricity and lower energy costs. Enable computer power management features for the shortest time period and lowest power mode consistent with your needs. Even for computers with a low-power sleep mode, more energy can be saved if the computer is manually shut off completely at night, on weekends and holidays, and during long periods of non-use during the day. This saves energy and will not shorten the life of these products. IT personnel should routinely check computers to make sure power management features have not been disabled.

If your networked computer(s) must remain on in the evening for file backup or other purposes, turn off the monitor. Note that there are numerous free and commercial solutions for managing computer power settings remotely. Look for network features that provide a timed shutdown, automatic shutdown after file backup, or auto-boot-up before backup. Using sleep and off modes will not shorten computer life.

Plug-in power supplies for notebooks typically draw power even when the computer is turned off. To save energy, unplug your power supply after the notebook battery is charged, or use a power strip with an on-off switch.

Many notebooks (and some desktops) offer a hibernate feature, which saves active programs and files before shutting off, then restores the same status when the computer is turned on. This added convenience encourages users to shut off their computers when not in use.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.

Updated January 2015

1 All EPEAT-registered products meet ENERGY STAR requirements but not all ENERGY STAR-qualified products are EPEAT-registered. Federal buyers should purchase products that are found in both the EPEAT registry and the ENERGY STAR qualified computers list.