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Power

Saving Power in your Home Office 285

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
cweditor writes "Rob Mitchell shows how he measured energy use of all his home office equipment, and then targeted the energy pigs for replacement. With better equipment choices, he'd save $90/year. If you've got more than a couple of computers and printers at home (and if you're a Slashdot reader, you probably do), the savings would be a lot higher. Includes detailed formulas as well as a spreadsheet on monitor energy usage."
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Saving Power in your Home Office

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  • Saving elsewhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by luvirini (753157) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:44AM (#21364729)
    A typical slashdotter will likely save way more both nature and money in a year by just not buying one of the gadgets..

    Ofcourse saving electricity is good, but often the total enviromental cost of disposing of the previous thing and the making of the new more energy efficient thing is way above any savings made by the new one..
    • by eln (21727) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:53AM (#21364887) Homepage
      The average Slashdotter already saves energy in a variety of ways:

      1.) Cutting showers to less than once a month greatly reduces both water and electricity (or gas) usage.
      2.) Staying in Mom's basement not only drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions from automobile usage, but also eliminates all the extra energy waste that maintaining a separate house would entail.
      3.) Not dating ensures procreation will not occur, thereby eliminating the energy usage involved in having more people on the planet.

      As usual, Slashdot is way ahead of the curve on this issue. Unfortunately, 90% of these savings are used up by the racks of ancient computer equipment still running in many of these basements, but every little bit counts.
    • by Otter (3800) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:28PM (#21365441) Journal
      Sincere question -- why on earth does any one person need more than a laptop, a desktop computer with monitor and one printer at home? (OK, I'll throw in a "media center", also.) Not that one necessarily needs even that, but I'm always baffled by these comments here about home networks that sound more like 15 person businesses.

      Presumably there's an answer, but cross-platform development is the only one I can come up with, and are there really so many people compiling on VMS at home?

      • by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:58PM (#21365925)
        Hell, why do you need your own house? Surely an apartment is good enough for you? Even that's wasteful, why not just live in a building with shared bathrooms and beds. Who needs lights at night anyway, or a TV for that matter? Surely not buying a washing machine would be more efficent too, just do your dishes in the sink. Its also a waste to travel, so lets live at where ever we are employed. And you get one plate to call your own. Who needs more than that?
        • by bcattwoo (737354)
          OK, perhaps it is not a question of whether they need them or not, but what the hell are they doing with them?
        • Re:Saving elsewhere (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheDormouse (614641) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:03PM (#21367201)

          Surely not buying a washing machine would be more efficent too, just do your dishes in the sink.

          No. A full load in the dishwasher actually uses less resources than doing dishes by hand. And the dishwasher will actually clean and disinfect the dishes properly, whereas most people doing dishes by hand won't actually kill all the bacteria while using at least twice as much water.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by rmerry72 (934528)

            No. A full load in the dishwasher actually uses less resources than doing dishes by hand.

            Not mine. Used to when it was new, but not lately. Have to rewash things constantly which leads to more resources being used (including time). And before you start, its only 6 years old and I don;t thing replacing all our dishwashers every 5 years is efficient use of resources either.

        • by mengel (13619) <mengel AT users DOT sourceforge DOT net> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:57PM (#21369095) Homepage Journal
          Actually, Dishwashers tend to use less water and energy than people washing dishes by hand, unless said people are using the 4-dishpan (dirty soapy, clean soapy, rinse, chlorine sanitize) method. This is because dishwashers de-chunk and recycle the soapy water till the dishes are clean, and then use a small amount to rinse, while most people keep a sink full of warm soapy water, and then keep running fresh, warm rinse water while washing dishes in the sink, thereby using several times more hot water than a dishwasher .

          But yes, overall, simplifying our lives and living situations would go a long way towards reducing our energy footprint; but we should also avoid false optimizations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Beyond the question of whether or not anyone 'needs' even one computer, some of use just do it cause we can, or because we want to. I still have an old laptop on my network for no other reason that when it got replaced, it got several different linux builds tested on it and then stuck in a corner, chugging away at Folding@Home and acting as my print server. It was a great learning experience, getting the different platforms (two different windows versions and a linux box) to all talk and play nice and frien
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fast turtle (1118037)

        why on earth does any one person need more than a laptop, a desktop computer with monitor and one printer at home?

        To answer your question is easy:

        Dad's Computer

        Mom's Computer

        Kids Computers

        Dad's printer - Laser

        Mom's Printer - Scanner/Injet

        Kids Printer - injet

        and that's just in my house. Dad's printer is used for work, Mom's is an all-in-one and the kids get basic injet for school work, while ensuring when they run out of ink/paper, it's doesn't mean dad's out.

        Add in a home network and I've now got all three desktops Folding 24/7

        This of course doesn't count the Media Center (don't have one anyhow) the fact that the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Now if you asked are they in use all the time then Hell Yes - Folding at Home on all of them and every system is as energy saving as possible.

          One part of this sentence is incompatible with the other. Hint: All those CPUs, not idling, and energy saving, but instead hammering 100% 24/7.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:31PM (#21365489)
      If consumer prices more accurately reflected long-term environmental costs, you could answer this question simply by determining whether it made financial sense to replace the gadget. People thinking of dumping their car to get something more fuel efficient in order to save money make this calculation all the time: how much gas $$/mo will I save, how long would that take to pay off the difference between car X and car Y (though the high price of gas is due to scarcity and politics instead of reflecting long-term costs such as the environment). Correcting the fact that pricing does not reflect environmental impact in general is the #1 environmental step we could take IMHO. Granted, this would allow rich people to continue polluting all they want, but at least they'd have an incentive to clean up their factories. And yes, I think we could and should extend this to imported goods.
    • Re:Saving elsewhere (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:34PM (#21365537) Homepage
      And as long as throwing things away is free (or charged at a flat rate) thus it will continue. And that's why there's little point in charging manufacturers a disposal levy up-front; once they've passed that on to the customer, there's no disincentive to dispose of the item.
      • Huh? The point is that the increased up-front cost to the consumer is the disincentive.
        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          That's a hidden disincentive to buy a new toy, not an overt disincentive to discard the old one. It's very different.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Retric (704075)
            The idea is if you don't buy the new toy you don't discard the old one.

            EX: I had a 91' Volvo with ~230k miles which I replaced a few months ago with a brand new Acura TSX. The Acura get's ~50% more miles to the gallon but costs 500$ month. If it had cost 700$ a month I would have probably kept my Volvo for another few years because I don't drive all that much.

            PS: Yea the car analogy is messed up because there are several reasons to buy a new car. However, when things cost more the tendency is to stick with
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      Really..I'm not that worried about it...my main power expense...is the A/C in the summer months...well, ok, basically my A/C comes on in mid to late April, and goes through November. I've had it off and on last few weeks as cool fronts start coming through. I like to keep the place about 72F while I'm there...and about 76F when gone (I have a long haired dog).

      But, really...I have a sunfire 280, with accompanying raid array...that sounds like a jet engine ready to take off, dual power supplies...I'm sure th

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang (1023425)
      If we had more nuclear power plants, we wouldn't have to worry about saving electricity. Give me more electricity!
  • SETI@Home (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Czmyt (689032) <steve@czmyt.com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:46AM (#21364771) Homepage
    I was running SETI@Home on all of my computers for a while until I realized that they use less power when the processors are idling as opposed to processing at full speed. Now I do not run any kind of volunteer processing like that. I can also see why it's a bad to install this kind of software at your place of employment. I wish that I could volunteer my computers' time without is costing me extra money to do so.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by warrenb10 (724789)
      And in the final scene, the aliens arrive just after humanity has wiped itself out fighting over the last barrel of oil (or rod of U-235, or whatever) and remark how if not for that one computer that was taken offline we would have gotten their message explaining how to extract limitless energy from vacuum (as well as old episodes of TV shows) in time to avoid that.
  • I saved! (Score:5, Funny)

    by monkeyboythom (796957) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:47AM (#21364793)
    I unplugged that appliance that measured my electric usage. However, the power company didn't see the benefit the way I did.
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:49AM (#21364823)
    There are many energy-saving questions I'd like to see investigated. For example, I have an old Subaru, and I'm not sure if I should buy a new fuel-efficient car. Mine isn't a guzzler, and I can afford a newer one. But that new car, even if it gets twice the MPG, costs energy to make--would an extra 20mpg offset the energy cost of making the car, and if so, how long would it take? Money aside, I don't know whether to keep the beater (which gets about 20mpg) or get a newer car.

    Also, what about TVs? I have a 19" old-fashioned TV. Cheap, and it works. But I'm looking at a 32" LCD. The LCD might pull less electricity, but would the difference offset the energy costs of making the TV?

    • by pinkocommie (696223) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:00PM (#21365007)
      Craigs List? Or any other classifieds variants. You're making the presumption that both of those are going to waste when in both cases you'll be passing them on to someone else who would've gotten them from another source otherwise (which could be new or used)
      • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:38PM (#21365625)
        Parent is very insightful. Also, make sure your old items are recycled, which will at least partially offset the need to mine or pump new materials from the ground.

        When considering cars, there are other things besides CO2 to take into consideration. Older cars tend to emit more smog pollutants than newer cars, so local air quality should also be taken into consideration. Despite the current hype, CO2 is not the only type of pollution in this world. That's why I'm a little bit dubious of Gore when he seems to think that it is okay for his house to use so much energy simply because he buys carbon credits... What about strip-mining credits, mercury credits, sulfur credits, etc.?

        Then again, I still use some of those really inefficient halogen touchier lamps. I use CFL bulbs in the light fixtures that don't dim, but there's something really nice about being able to vary the light from intense and white for reading to warm and dim for movies or dinner.
        • by bcattwoo (737354)

          Parent is very insightful. Also, make sure your old items are recycled, which will at least partially offset the need to mine or pump new materials from the ground.
          Recycled in what sense though? If you sell your gas guzzler to someone else in favor of a more efficient model you aren't really reducing pollution at all. Would it be better to just send it directly to the scrapyard?
          • by MightyYar (622222)
            I guess the presumption is that your "old gas guzzler" is still a trade up from what someone else is driving, and that their even worse car would go to the recycle bin. A new, more efficient car entering the stream should always improve things overall.

            Of course, the opposite is also true... if you buy a less-efficient car than what you were driving before, you are making things in the stream worse. I guess that is a decent argument for improved CAFE standards.
        • by gobbo (567674)

          make sure your old items are recycled, which will at least partially offset the need to mine or pump new materials from the ground.

          Reduce-reuse-recycle, in that order: upgrade your old machine with more efficient software like Puppy Linux [puppylinux.org]. You'll still get that temporary pseudo-boost of a getting-new-stuff feeling (hail mammon, the secret consumer $DEITY), or give it to a kid. As long as it boots from CD, has a fairly standard bios and motherboard, and 128MB of RAM, it will be easy to set up and feel as fast as a modern machine, with a typical set of productivity apps. Really quite amazing, how things can be repurposed, and reduce th

        • lights (Score:3, Informative)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          Then again, I still use some of those really inefficient halogen touchier lamps. I use CFL bulbs in the light fixtures that don't dim, but there's something really nice about being able to vary the light from intense and white for reading to warm and dim for movies or dinner.

          While halogen lights are not as efficient as CFLs they are more efficient than incandescent lights. As for using CFLs with dimmer switches, there are some CFLs capable of dimming. Though they are more expensive here are some dimm [baybulbs.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by monkeySauce (562927)
          You mean one with those 300 watt halogen bulbs that were so popular 5-10 years ago? Those things aren't lights, they are heaters which happen to illuminate their surroundings.

          I have CFL-equipped torchieres which put out a heck of a lot of light using only 38W. A strategically placed, bright white CFL could take care of the reading needs and for mood lighting, add a couple smaller CFL lamps (5-7W) and kill the other lights. You lose the infinite range of the dimmer, but turning on different combinations of s
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by megaditto (982598)
      If you want to estimate the manufacturing/energy costs, multiply the wholesale price by x2
      Then compare that to the estimated reduction of your energy bill over the lifetime of the item.

      If that LCD costs $100 but saves you $90 a year, then you will break even after about 2 years and start saving energy (and the Planet).
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      The cost of the energy used to make the product is included of the price. If that new TV costs $500, then you know they used less than $500 worth of energy to build it. Since parts & labor are usually the most expensive part of a device, the energy cost is probably very small. But you can use the $500 as the upper-bound of the energy cost.
      • by hankwang (413283) *

        If that new TV costs $500, then you know they used less than $500 worth of energy to build it.

        It makes quite a difference whether it's $500 in electricity or $500 of coal in an iron smelter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hankwang (413283) *

      But that new car, even if it gets twice the MPG, costs energy to make--would an extra 20mpg offset the energy cost of making the car, and if so, how long would it take? Money aside, I don't know whether to keep the beater (which gets about 20mpg) or get a newer car.

      Get the newer car. The CO2 emission for manufacturing a new car in the UK is 0.7 tonnes as of 2006, [green-car-guide.com] which is roughly 250 kg (300 liters = 75 gallons) of fuel. This is all thanks to the extensive recycling of cars. I don't know about the situatio

    • by Sporkinum (655143)
      It's probably just me, but don't all Subarus (except the old Justy) get crappy mileage? 20mpg sucks. I'm sure you could buy a different beater for next to nothing that would get better mileage. An old S series Saturn is good for around 35-40 mpg, and has a plastic body that won't rust.
    • by Technician (215283) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:40PM (#21367859)
      There are many energy-saving questions I'd like to see investigated. For example, I have an old Subaru, and I'm not sure if I should buy a new fuel-efficient car. Mine isn't a guzzler, and I can afford a newer one. But that new car, even if it gets twice the MPG, costs energy to make--would an extra 20mpg offset the energy cost of making the car, and if so, how long would it take?

      There is more to the question than just gas savings. Repairs and routine maintenance are another part as well as resale value. My wife and I both bought used cars in 2003. We both bought 2002 vehicles for $18,000. Hers has 80,000 miles and mine has 101,000 miles.

      Let's check current bluebook...

      2002 Dodge Caravan Roughly $6-8,000

      http://www.cars.com/go/crp/research.jsp;jsessionid=JOG2KH0OBPGX1LAYIESU2UY?makeid=12&modelid=127&year=2002&section=summary&mode=&aff=national [cars.com]

      2002 Toyota Prius Roughly $16-17,000

      http://www.cars.com/go/crp/research.jsp?makeid=47&modelid=2916&year=2002&section=summary&mode=&aff=national [cars.com]

      The Dodge has already needed a brake pad replacement, power steering service and other items. The Prius has no engine belts except for the AC. The power steering is electric, not hydraulic. I had the brakes checked at 80,000 miles when I changed tires. There was 80% remaining due to the use of regenerative braking.

      Just from the above, it is easy to see which is the winner on value.. and we haven't touched gas cost yet.. OK what about the gas?

      I bought the Prius used with 8,000 miles, so I have put on 101,000 - 8,000 or 93,000 miles since I bought it. Gas went from about 1.50 a gal to over $3.00 a gal. For sake of argument, lets use the average of about $2.25/gallon. I have averaged 46 MPG. I bought approximately 2,022 gallons for a cost of approximately $4,550. On the other hand the gas for the Caravan is over $10,000 spent. At over $3.00/gallon, the savings are more dramatic. For the same distance driven it is either a $30 fill-up or $70.

      People often argued that the cost savings in gas will not pay for the premium for buying a hybrid. If you drive a car that gets less than 1/2 that of the Prius and you drive it more than 100,000 miles, and you can still get gas for $2.25/gallon, then the argument is almost valid as this is the break even point on the additional price premium.

      I bought the car when the price of gas wasn't over $2.00/gallon. I studied them and found they are not new tech. They were on the road for 5 years in Japan before they hit the US market in 2001. I was impressed with the reliability and the elimination of most of the expensive over 100,000 mile failure items. Items like alternators, power steering pumps, hoses, starters and the like are eliminated. I also knew gas prices were going up and were never returning to under $1.00/gallon. Future gas prices meant future savings. A surprise was just how high the resale value is. That is an added bonus.

      One of the big scares of buying a hybrid was that big expensive battery. It is common knowledge batteries are useless after about 3 years in your cell phone, laptop, etc. I'm going to have to buy a $5,000 battery in 3 years... there is no savings as gas savings will need to be spent on a battery every 3 years. Part of my studies was to deal with just this fact. In digging I found the truth, and it's very nice and was the final item that got me to buy one.

      Here is the deal on the batteries... Cell phones, laptops and such deep cycle batteries.. BAD. You run them down past 50% and charge them up to the top.. Bad and bad.

      The hybrid keeps the battery under 80% and over 50% with almost no exc
  • Measuring your power (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lurks (526137) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:52AM (#21364859) Homepage

    Decent little article. I decided to go on a similar drive and make our home (which serves as home office for myself and my wife) a little more efficient. I targetted a number of things including DC plug packs being left in idle, devices in stand by etc. What I did was measure the household electrical current draw by timing meter revolutions (old spinning type meters in near universal usage in the UK) before and after, and work out what was worth doing.

    I detailed my thoughts in this blog [electricdeath.com] along with details of how to calculate power drain from the electrical meter in your home.

  • Larger scale (Score:3, Informative)

    by techpawn (969834) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:57AM (#21364953) Journal
    For those of us who need to think bigger EnergyStar [energystar.gov] has a report and ways to cut energy usage for a whole data center... But energy saving starts at home.
  • Kill-A-Watt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by keithjr (1091829) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:02PM (#21365035)
    I've got one of these little guys on hand, and I swear by it myself. Much easier than trying to use an amp-clamp to find your AC current usage. Anybody interested in monitoring home energy usages should invest in one.
    • I used an AMP-CLAMP with a custom-made extension. Unfortunately it doesn't calculate the watts, you have to multiply by 127 by youself. But that saved me from spending over 70 Watts per hour (No wonder our electricity bill was so high).
      • Watts vs. VA (Score:4, Informative)

        by name_already_taken (540581) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:46PM (#21365737)
        Multiplying Amps by 127 doesn't take power factor into consideration and gives you VA, not Watts, unless your load is purely resistive. It can give you a vague idea of whether you're saving any power or not, but not always since electronic and inductive loads can draw current at different parts of the AC waveform such that a clamp ammeter won't show.

        There's a short explanation of the difference here: http://www.powervar.com/Eng/ABCs/CalcVAWATTS.asp [powervar.com]
        • by thogard (43403)
          For the types that want to cut CO2 the VA is a better indicator since that is more related to waste on the in the power lines and generators than W.

          How do you go about calculating how much coal a device with a power factor of .65 takes compared to a device that takes the same Watts but has a power factor of 1.0?
          • Re:Watts vs. VA (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:25PM (#21367577) Journal
            In an AC circuit with inductive or capacitive loads, Volt-Amps does NOT equal Watts.

            To use the common Beer analogy:

            Volt-amps drawn by the device is the size of a beer mug. Watts used by the device is the amount of beer in the mug. VAR (reactive VA) as the amount of foam in the mug. Your Power factor is therefore the percentage of beer in the mug. Problem is, you pay for beer by the mug (1 pint each, say). If you want 3 pints of beer but each mug is 35% foam (PF = 0.65), you pay for 4.6 mugs.

            So, if you have two devices that take the same number of "Watts" then PF=0.65 device is costing you 1 watt but delivering 0.65 watts of performance. If you only need 0.65 watts of performance you can replace it with a theoretical PF=1.00 device that costs 0.65 watts.

            In other words, the two devices in your question must have different outputs (same 1 watt input and different PF) and are therefore not equivalent.
            =Smidge=
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:03PM (#21365059)
    The Kill-A-Watt (and its competitors) are a handy item. I was surprised to find that my desktop PC was pulling 118W doing "nothing" and 139W when working pretty hard. Even more surprising, when I switched to Volt-amp mode, the numbers were 189 and 210 VA, respectively. My office is usually too hot anyway, so I figured that was a good excuse for a new power supply. I got an "80 Plus" power supply, and now "Hymie" pulls under 88W/89VA when slacking and about 95W/96VA breathing hard. The power factor correction isn't just a gimmick. The case is much cooler, and I unplugged several of the now-unneeded fans, saving a couple more watts. On top of that, my immediate desk area is more comfortable and quieter. See website http://80plus.org/ [80plus.org] for more info on "80 plus" program.
    • by AndersOSU (873247)
      Just curious, how does 118/139 W translate to 189/210 VA?

      Wouldn't these devices simply measure voltage and current and multiply them to give watts?
      • by thogard (43403)
        Lookup "power factor". Most of what you will find involves resistive vs inductive loads but there are other power factor issues from switching power supplies that only kick in during part of the normal sine wave and that makes the grid much less efficient.
      • Just curious, how does 118/139 W translate to 189/210 VA?

        It's because it's AC, and the voltage and current are out of phase with each other. Usually this happens because the load is capacitive or inductive. In theory (perfect conductors), this reactive power should be returned to the power company, but in practice much is lost to heating. The ratio of W to VA is called Power Factor, which you want to be close to 1. Take in inverse cosine of the PF to find the actual phase mismatch. In my case, the po

    • by Malc (1751)
      Cool gadget hey. I found when my Creative Labs speakers are turned off they draw 75% of the power of when they're on. Extremely inefficient AC->DC converter, which is always warm.

      I wish power bars in N. America had individual switches per socket as seems to be fairly standard in places like the UK. Then I can completely power-down individual devices, but still use the power bar of other things.
  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:04PM (#21365071) Homepage
    Okay, so it saved him $90 when he replaced some items, but how much extra would you spend on the new items that you wouldn't otherwise spend?

    One great way to cut down your computer's power is to replace all of the big power-hungry graphics and processors with all these cheap and efficient ones like WalMart or whoever have been selling recently. Who volunteers to replace their nVidia 8800 with an on-board graphics card to save a hundred watts or so?

    It's a good idea, but it's either expensive in gadgets or will often need to cripple what you have. (Yes I know there are more efficient graphics cards now, but the general trend is more power hungry)
  • The main lessons from TFA seem to be: get rid of CRT monitors (my last one died this year and was replace with an LCD) and turn things off when you're not using them - sensible stuff just about anyone could do.
    • The main lessons from TFA seem to be: get rid of CRT monitors (my last one died this year and was replace with an LCD) and turn things off when you're not using them - sensible stuff just about anyone could do.

      Yes, sensible, but how many slashdotters have figured this out for themselves? I'm reminded of the people who leave the water running while they brush their teeth.
    • Re:Sensible (Score:4, Informative)

      by fbjon (692006) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:38PM (#21366699) Homepage Journal

      The main lessons from TFA seem to be: get rid of CRT monitors
      Another lesson from me: don't use screen savers at all, use power saving that turns monitors off after 15 minutes. If you have several hard drives, make sure they turn off too after some suitable period of time, especially if one of them is dedicated to storage and not used continuously. Also, the power saving on my AMD dual core drops the power draw from 120 Watt idle to 95 Watt idle for the whole system. "Idle" is of course not quite idle, downloading torrents and web browsing still keeps the processor largely at 1GHz, without bumping it up to 1.7 or 2.3GHz. Graphics card is a decent 7800GT with only a heat pipe, no active cooling.


      Additionally, I have a radio remote controlled master power button, to which I've connected all monitors, speakers, chargers, and everything else non-essential for running the computer. This makes it easy to kill all power while still leaving the computer on. A bit more power could perhaps be saved by using an even better power supply, but not buying it will probably save more money and environment.

  • Only $90/year???? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rimcrazy (146022) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:06PM (#21365089)
    Give me a break. Turn your house up 1 degree in the summer and down 1 degree in the winter and you will save more money than that!
    • by mdalal97 (256621) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:21PM (#21365339)
      Why not do both? It is not that hard to reduce your consumption. Turn off your computers at night, unplug unused power bricks (for cell phones, cameras, chargers, etc...). It is easy. Just because it appears to be a relatively small benefit, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

      I thought the article was OK, but it did seem like he we dwelling on the 'sacrifices' he had to make... really, how hard it is to turn off your computers when you are done for the day. It is not difficult to make the changes needed to reduce consumption.

      • unplug unused power bricks (for cell phones, cameras, chargers, etc...).

        So why do people keep recommending this stuff. I actually measured my unused power bricks with my handy, dandy, kill-a-watt, and they use nothing when there's no device connected to them.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Just be careful not to follow this advice too many times...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Give me a break. Turn your house up 1 degree in the summer and down 1 degree in the winter and you will save more money than that!
      When I suggest turning down the thermostat to my wife, she points out that she would have to put clothes on. That's usually where the discussion ends.

      I suppose that tells you where energy conservation falls in my priorities...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Woogiemonger (628172)

      Turn your house up 1 degree in the summer and down 1 degree in the winter and you will save more money than that!

      For some, including myself, 1 degree higher or lower can really make someone uncomfortable in his/her own home. However, I learned that in the winter, a bit of cardio exercise can really mute this effect. I find that I need my house at 73F during the winter, but after a jog outside, or a bit of time on the treadmill (however much that uses up in energy), I can lower the thermostat down to 6

  • by rueger (210566) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:08PM (#21365113) Homepage
    Not a bad article, but really his primary problem was that he was running some pretty old gear - a big CRT monitor and an old Laserjet. Once he dumped those the pickings were pretty slim.

    It's like those folks that hang onto a twenty year old fridge, keeping it in the basement for beer. Just because it's "free" doesn't mean it's doing you any favors.
  • by RandoX (828285) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:13PM (#21365203)
    If my old Commodore64 used less power than my Pentium IV I should switch back? What about if a CRT uses less power than my new HDTV of similar size? Sometimes there are other reasons to choose a product than simply power consumption.
  • http://www.earth.org.uk/low-power-laptop.html [earth.org.uk]

    And the site is hosted by the new equipment!

    Rgds

    Damon
  • by skoda (211470) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:25PM (#21365395) Homepage
    The author spent $200 to buy an LCD monitor to replace a 19" CRT, saving $18 / yr electricity: more than a five year payoff. And he's putting a CRT into a landfill somewhere. There's no economic incentive to buy an LCD; savings are pocket change and doesn't realistically pay for itself. And the environmental cost could be a wash, since the reduced carbon footprint is weighed against a CRT dumped in the trash.

    This article is fun, and I might play a similar game at home. But people chasing $90 in electricity is nearly trite compared to the real energy users: home heating and cooling and clothes washers and dryers. Globally, this is spitting in the ocean compared to the real change that's (presumably) neeeded.

    It's reported that eliminating coal-mine fires (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/from-bagels-to-coal-fires-an-unorthodox-economist-keeps-pushing-for-change/) would reduce CO2 emissions annually equivalent to that produced by all cars and light-trucks in the US. There's little value in individuals replacing 3 W cable modems for 2 W versions when the "easy" targets are still ignored.
    • You make a good point about heating and cooling being bigger offenders than office electronics, and focusing on them first. Adding insulation and replacing (or at least caulking) leaky windows is another good move which could save you hundreds of dollars in energy each year.

      The article didn't mention him putting the CRT in a landfill - I suspect he ended up donating it or giving it away. There are a number of charities out there which take obsolete computer equipment, test it, and give it to nonprofits
    • by plague3106 (71849)
      The author spent $200 to buy an LCD monitor to replace a 19" CRT, saving $18 / yr electricity: more than a five year payoff. And he's putting a CRT into a landfill somewhere. There's no economic incentive to buy an LCD; savings are pocket change and doesn't realistically pay for itself. And the environmental cost could be a wash, since the reduced carbon footprint is weighed against a CRT dumped in the trash.

      $90 / yr / monitor in a business setting is a big deal though. And you assume he tossed the CRT ins
    • I switched to more energy efficient computer hardware, but did not just suddenly go out and buy new computer hardware all at once. I waited until each item became semi-obsolete or quit working, then I replaced it with a more energy efficient replacement. Perhaps the author should have suggested that people do it that way.

      There are other advantages besides just saving money. For one thing, during power failures, my computer can now run much longer from UPS power. There is at usually least one thunderst

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:31PM (#21365499) Homepage Journal
    I've replaced a bunch of bulbs with compact fluorescents. If I believe the packaging, I will save more money in a year on my lighting costs than I normally spend in a year on ALL of my electrical needs.
  • I can retire at 40!
  • by ODD97 (645414) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:38PM (#21365607) Homepage
    I built a system that turns off my lights when I blink. My blinks last approximately 1/4 second, and I blink roughtly 20 times per minute, saving me 5 seconds per minute, or 20 seconds per hour. That makes 160 seconds (2 minutes) per workday. over the course of a year, that's 16 minutes of power waste that I am avoiding without changing any equipment significantly.

    ... of course, alligator-clipping the blink sensors to my eyelids stings for a little bit, but you get used to it really fast. It's a small price to pay to save the world.

    • It's even better than that! 5 seconds per minute is 5 minutes per hour! That's 40 minutes per workday. That's 200 minutes per week, and 163 hours per year (assuming 3 weeks vacation). Now, in all fairness, I think your blink length and frequency is substantially above average.
  • by F1Rumors (914638) <slashdot@@@keeble...demon...co...uk> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:55PM (#21365871) Homepage
    Rather, the brick that converts the AC to DC is inefficient.

    My savings came from taking an efficient computer power supply (80-85% efficient, depending on the load) and running my own 12V and 5V supplies direct to the devices that use those voltages [includes: cable modem, wireless router, usb hub, network disk, a GPS/VHF radio and a camera]. When I can be find time to finish the job, I'll do the maths and buy the parts to add 19V and 6.8V for two other devices.

    In practical terms: I no longer have a collection of bricks generating heat, so I waste considerably less energy; I plug only one device in to the UPS, eliminating a lot of wires, so the installation is simple and tidy; and there's a bonus: the fan on the power supply keeps air moving over the equipment whenever heat builds up...
  • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:05PM (#21366031)
    Two things, really. A power supply where the individual outputs are switchable via USB (go to sleep, printers, USB hubs, etc shut off) -- at the very least that cuts power to all outputs when one output's load drops (i.e., the computer turning off cuts power to everything else plugged into the switch). The other thing I'm looking for is a single higher-efficiency power adapter that would replace the multitudinous little bricks with a multi-output brick.

    Put those things together and you could easily drop power consumption 30-50% in a setup like that.
  • 90/year is better than nothing BUT he spent a fair bit of money for those savings.

    While monetary price may not be the most accurate measure of resource consumption, with the fairly low margins on many computer products I suggest that it's not that far off. USD200+USD130+USD65 of monitor+modem+printer does include the energy and resource cost of building them (and nowadays some products include the cost of recycling or trashing it).

    Basically I doubt many of those items are priced much cheaper than the energy
  • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:09PM (#21366137)
    This article is kind of timely, as I just got a Kill-A-Watt on Tuesday for the purpose of measuring office equipment electrical usage. What I found was that my old Athlon64 3200+ (1 gig of memory) was drawing 100 watts idle, while the new Athlon64 X2 5400+ (2 gig of memory)that I just got to replace it runs at 40 watts idle. Given that I am paying $0.32 kwh for my top usage, that comes out to a $14.29 savings per month by purchasing the new, noticeably faster machine. Given that I paid $150 for the motherboard/processor/video card/memory upgrade, in 10 months, the machine will have paid for itself if both would have been left to sit idle. The normal usage numbers are 120/77 watts which comes out to a $10.07 a month savings if both machines were run under normal loads 24/7. The new system also has WAY better power management, so I'll actually use it. This means that when I am not using the system the numbers will be 100/5 watts, and a savings of $22.25/month. Based on my usage patterns, I expect about $15 a month in savings.

    After seeing these numbers, I decided to check out my wifes machine. Her system has the known Windows bug that makes it go to the "It is safe to shut down your system" message instead of actually shutting down when the computer is instructed to shut down. This combined with her usage pattern of sitting down and looking things up for 5 minutes, then walking away for the computer, and coming back 2 or 3 hours later to spend another 5 or 10 minutes on the system, means that getting her to turn off her computer when not in use is simply not an option. There is no way I am going to convince her to wait the 3-4 minutes waiting for it to boot up, and another 3-4 minutes waiting for it to shut down, to get 5 minutes of use out of it. Her machine runs at 110 watts idle, and 150 watts under normal load. Given that the new motherboard has suspend that actually works, 99% of the time her system could be running 5 watts with, again, better functionality. This would lead to a savings of $22.25 per month in savings. This would mean giving her the same upgrade would pay for itself in ~7 months. You can bet I am going to do that very soon. I expect that my son's system is only slightly more efficient than my wifes, so his will likely follow shortly after.
  • by Mike18067 (1189559) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:16PM (#21366281)
    I have a small 1200sqft home and my electricity bill is over $400 per month. We went around the house and tried to figure out the biggest hogs. Nothing seemed off par until I went into the garage and noticed that the fridge and freezer were running. So I sat down for awhile with a book and listened. It was summer and these things were running 25 minutes out of the hour. Then i went inside the house and it was no more than a total of 10 minutes and hour. I disconnected them for 2 months and saw my bill drop over $125 a month! I no longer have them in my garage. I later read that they should never be in a garage unless it is climate controlled. I bought a bigger unit for my house and no longer need them anymore.
  • In the USA, the standard voltage is 120 volts. Virtually every computer power supply and these days the power supplies of most auxiliary equipment can operate on 240 volts, either with a flip of a switch, or through autoranging which usually supports 100 volts (as in Japan) through 240 volts (as in Australia, UK, etc). 240 volts (or in some cases 208 volts) is usually available for special circuits using opposite alternating polarities. Most equipment will operate slightly more efficiently on 240 volts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rick17JJ (744063)

      I look for the new 80 Plus rating whenever I buy a new power supply for a computer. The 80 PLUS performance specification requires power supplies in computers to be 80% or greater energy efficient at 20%, 50% and 100% of rated load. Many computers come with much less efficient power supplies. I used an 80 Plus rated power supply in the most recent computer that I built. On my slightly older computer, the power supply recently died and I replaced it with an 80 Plus rated power supply.

      Another problem is

  • I can't help but wonder how much electricity we are wasting with people leaving their boxes on (for a good reason mind you) but wasting a bunch of it at the same time.
  • In some places (the southern United States, for example) people cool their homes for six to seven months a year, and every watt used in a home office costs an addition 2 to 4 watts to remove from the house just to maintain a constant temperature. Add to the $90 a year he would save directly an additional $200 in indirect savings for home cooling for these places.
  • by doublefrost (1042496) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:08PM (#21367275)
    Don't replace things to save energy. Just make energy conscience choices when the time comes to replace things.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:14PM (#21368435) Homepage Journal
    I leave it on all the time. It takes too long to boot. Sue me. My wife uses one desktop, likewise. Sue her too. My son, ditto. We have one wireless router, one MTA for Voip, one print server, one printer. If I save a few watts will that make up for my neighbors 60 inch home theater?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:27PM (#21368627)
    Warning... This is a long post, but has specific info on how we did it. If you are really interested in saving energy regardless of your motivations, read on.

    We are a small IT company in Colorado that has always had a thing for saving energy. To all you "green" folks out there, no, we did not do it to reduce our "carbon footprint" or any such psudo-math. (I will retract this statement if and when someone can show me hard math and facts where the data doesn't come from a table generated by an "expert"). We simply saw the need to reduce waste, and did what we could. The fact it would help our bottom line didn't hurt either ;->. We incorporated these ideas in our old location, but we had no idea how much we were saving because power was included in our lease.

    Recently we moved into our own building, and got a real power bill. The first one doesn't count since we had the deposit to pay and contractors with power hungry tools... but our second one was $37, and no, that is not a typo. The subsequent bills were within 20%. What was done to make this possible was three-fold, Habits, Building, and Equipment.

    Change your habits. If you are done with something, turn it off. We power down half the servers and some IT gear when we leave for the night. Laptops get turned off or leave with the employee. Lights get turned off when you are not using the space. These habits were solidified in the old location.

    The building we selected is a 1920's adobe with about 2200 square feet. At our altitude (nearly 7000 feet), we needed no cooling except for the hottest months. The rest of the time we pull cool air from under the wood floors as needed. The office stayed at about 70 degrees, and the A/C kicks in at 85. All the area lights have been replaced with compact flourescent and task lights are LED spots. The break room has a small energy efficient fridge and microwave. No real surprises there, but the big savings is in the IT side of the house.

    Most of our real power consumption on the AC side are the printers. We have 3 laser printers, 2 B/W and 1 color, that we keep turned off when not in use. I wish we could move to something more energy efficient, but in business, there is still no replacement for a laser printer. We also have an inkjet/fax/scanner/dishwasher combo (just kidding about the dishwasher bit), but it also runs on AC, and stays on nearly all the time. We use it mostly to print proofs before they go to the laser printers for production.

    We have 8 pieces of non-computer equipment (phone systems, routers etc...) that run on 12 VDC and 3 run on 5vdc. We selected the equipment because it ran on DC at one of these voltages. Wall warts are just miniaturized linear power supplies; they draw power whenever they are plugged in, and produce heat, even when they are doing nothing for you. Switch mode supplies, such as PC power supplies use power in proportion to their demand and are most efficient at 70-80% load. We use a 500W dual output switch mode power supply to power everything that normally has a wall wart, charge the battery banks for failover... sort of a UPS with an 24 hour run time, and all the servers.

    Waitaminute... Servers??? Yep. While you may think you need God's own server for what you do, take a real look at it. We had a file server, 2 web servers, a mail server, an applications server, a database server, and a development server. They were mostly dual P4s with one single CPU. We replaced the servers used for the file and mail servers with one box with a Via C3 processor, 200W 12vdc power supply (for ITX machines), dual 500GB hard disks and 2 GB RAM running CentOS. It is plenty fast for our work group of 4 office people, 4 techs, and 2 sales weenies. In fact most have commented that it "feels faster" than our old SMP machine running 2000 Server. Better still is the power consumption... about 3.5 amps on the 12V line, or 42 Watts. Nearly identical machines run as our web servers, a combined application and database serve

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