The “Green Energy Czar” for Google says there are many steps that both large and small businesses can take to save energy and become greener. Bill Weihl was one of the keynote speakers at the Technology Association of Iowa’s “Heartland GreenUp Symposium and Expo” in Des Moines Wednesday.

Weihl told Radio Iowa one step businesses can take is to look at the age of their equipment — and the way it operates. Weihl says most businesses that run a small data center can do simple things like buying new highly-efficient servers, as well as looking at how the data center is cooled. He says one of the most inefficient areas of most data centers is the cooling infrastructure.

Weihl says the hot air coming off the servers is often recirculated over and over through the cooling system, increasing the cost to cool things down. He says they’ve found some simple ways to improve the cooling. He says in some of their smaller facilities, they went out and bought meat locker curtains and hung them over the racks to separate the hot aisles from the cold aisles so the hot and cold air doesn’t mix.

Weihl says that can give you a very quick payback. He says there are other ways to handle larger server areas that will also give you a payback. Weihl says getting new equipment may cost you money now, but will save you money in the long run. “Buying a more efficient server with a very efficient power supply will probably pay back in six months or so. So even if you have a one year time frame in thinking about your expenses, that’s well worth the extra expense up front in terms of what it will save you down the road,” Weihl explains.

He says most UPS. (uninterrupted power supply) systems are very inefficient, and putting money into a new more efficient UPS will save you more money in the long run. Weihl says he’s seen a big change in the attitudes of companies in the last two or three years toward becoming greener. But, he says companies are still bucking some old ways as there is often a split in the capitol budget needed to make improvements and the operating budget.

Weihl says if you are going to save money on buying new equipment, you have to move money from one budget department to another, and he says that type of movement is often discouraged by the way the budgeting system is set up. Weihl says Google operates on what’s called a “total cost of ownership” philosophy that allows the company to purchase new equipment if it will help save money in operating costs over time.