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The Insatiable Power Hunger of Home Electronics

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the led-xmas-lights-are-the-answer dept.

Power 340

An anonymous reader writes "A Wall Street Journal columnist recently got his hand on a power meter and decided to write about his findings, the resulting article being discussed here on Slashdot. That author concluded that gadgets are getting a bad rap, and are relatively insignificant power consumers in the grand scheme of things. A rebuttal has appeared, arguing that not only are modern electronics significant power consumers already, while everything else is becoming more efficient, home electronics seem to be getting worse. This echoes the Department of Energy's assertion that 'Electricity consumption for home electronics, particularly for color TVs and computer equipment, is also forecast to grow significantly over the next two decades.' Are gadgets unfairly maligned, or getting an unearned pardon?"

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Things are getting more efficient... (5, Informative)

crc32 (133399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386464)

In general, an LCD TV is 2x more energy efficient than a CRT. Modern dual-core processors are more energy efficient then older processors. However, as with all gains in efficiency, we're using MANY more of them. That's just what happens.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386690)

I just thought I'd note that the parent DOES actually mean '2x more' and not '2x as'. This is rare these days, and I think it should be marked on a calendar or something.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=10 82 [google.com]

According to this link, a CRT uses 3x as much electricity in a year as an LCD. Which is, of course, the same as saying '2x more'.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386770)

Are you really trying to tell me that my old Pentium I 166MHz MMX [wikipedia.org] , uses less power than my current AMD64 2800+ [wikipedia.org] ?

I don't even have to heat the room where my computers are.... (My wifes P-IV, my dual AMD MP and the above mentioned AMD64 2800+)

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386784)

Ooops....

"uses less power than" should be "uses more power than".

Sure the P-I does less work for that amount of power, but overall the newer machine uses more power.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

szembek (948327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387316)

That was his point. Efficiency considers both the amount of work accomplished and the amount of energy used to accomplish it. So What he is saying is that your electricity used per cycle is improved. Thus meaning that the new processor is more efficient.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387682)

I understand that, but the article talks about absolute energy consumption. That AMD64 is pretty much doing nothing all day since it's a fileserver. It can be easily handled by a P166... an old box, which I *only* replaced because I was scared that parts would fail that I couldn't replace with off-the-shelf stuff.

Still, I pay more for a box that is "more efficient".

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (2, Informative)

szembek (948327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387738)

From the summary "while everything else is becoming more efficient, home electronics seem to be getting worse". But in fact in regards to efficiency they are NOT getting worse, but getting better. It is just that our increased usage is outweighing the increased efficiency, creating an overall increase in consumption.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

caffeinatedOnline (926067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387178)

I agree... I just had to rebuild a computer due to a motherboard going bad. I run an ATI crossfire setup, and the only board that they had at the local electronic shop (Fry's) that was crossfire ran the new Intel processors. After getting a new processor, new memory (it used DDR2 vs my old boards DDR), and getting it installed, I found that my power supply was lacking (old processor was an AMD64x2, new was an Intel Core Duo). My old power supply ran 500 watts, now I am running 700 watts. While I am not sure that it is actually using all those watts, I am sure that my power bill is going to reflect it.

Inflation (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386870)

Something central to human psychology. The more we have of something, the more we use. It's why supply and demand works, why scarce things are valuable.
 

Re:Inflation (4, Insightful)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387170)

The more we have of something, the more we use. It's why supply and demand works
No it isn't.

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387632)

an LCD TV is 2x more energy efficient than a CRT for the same screen size?

Re:Things are getting more efficient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387722)

Plus there's more people using them (younger, older, and less tech savvy). Which means that overall electricty usage of gadgets goes up (per capita and total worldwide).

My results (0, Troll)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386488)

I received an ammeter for Christmas, and I went around my flat finding just how much current these things draw. For reference, the voltage delivered is 125VAC. I'll put out the wattage instead of current drawn.

Cell phone charger: 10W
Washing machine: 790W
Computer: 240W
LCD monitor: 90W
IP telephone: 20W (!!!!!)
42" Hi-def plasma display: 190W

Crazy. That would explain why my light bill is 80 pounds per month!!

Re:My results (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17386536)

So, where exactly in the world are you, that you get 125 volts in the wall but pay your bill in pounds?

Re:My results (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386550)

I have a power converter since I brought all my electronics from Canada but am only living in the UK for the next year. Sorry that I didn't clarify!

Re:My results (1)

jjthegreat (837151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386640)

Yeah was about to say your missing a 2x multiplier if your in the UK. None of the equipment complains about running on 50hz instead?

Re:My results (2, Informative)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386660)

Yeah was about to say your missing a 2x multiplier if your in the UK. None of the equipment complains about running on 50hz instead?

A lot of equipment is completely oblivious to this shift in frequency. Most affected are appliances with AC motors and clocks. If the first thing an appliance does is convert AC to DC (as with almost all electronic appliances) then no difference will be noticed. If there is a transformer before the first rectifier, then there may be a slight loss of power.

Re:My results (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386666)

None of the equipment complains about running on 50hz instead?
Nope! I don't know whether it's a solid state-ly modified waveform to 60Hz (there is no moving part in the converter as in a phase converter), or it's just that my electronics are taking 50Hz...remember that rectification doesn't care about the waveform in the RC smoothing for the most part, but my electronics don't seem to care!

Re:My results (1)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386888)

So you have a 125V PAL TV from Canada? Or do you have a PAL to NTSC converter? Just wondering.

Re:My results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387304)

I see no mention of a TV in his list. A "monitor" and a "display", but no TV.

Re:My results (0, Redundant)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386644)

Cell phone charger: 10W
Washing machine: 790W
Computer: 240W
LCD monitor: 90W
IP telephone: 20W (!!!!!)
42" Hi-def plasma display: 190W

Finding out that in Soviet Russia, electronics powers you... priceless.
For everything else, there's Cowboyneal.

Re:My results (3, Informative)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386694)

Two comments:

First, these are Volt-Amps, not necessarily Watts. National Grid is going to charge you for Watts. The "Watts=VoltsxAmps" formula only works for 100% resistive loads or DC. On AC, you have to adjust for reactive power.

Second, what is going into your power converter that you are using to run your Canadian appliances in the UK? In other words, how much have you increased the insanity?

On a side note, don't you just love those British 3-prong plugs? Just be careful not to step on one in the middle of the night barefoot! :-)

Re:My results (5, Funny)

thetroll123 (744259) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386924)

On a side note, don't you just love those British 3-prong plugs? Just be careful not to step on one in the middle of the night barefoot! :-)

Or, more generally, don't step on anything pointy barefoot. Time of day and intended purpose of the pointy thing are not important.

Re:My results (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386972)

> On a side note, don't you just love those British 3-prong
> plugs? Just be careful not to step on one in the middle of
> the night barefoot! :-)

IMHO there is at least a master's degree in psychology awaiting the person who performs an analysis of national character as revealed by the UK, French, US, Italian, and Australian electric plugs/sockets.

One thing I will say about the UK plug: at least there is no question that you have a ground (earth).

sPh

Re:My results (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387088)

There's no question that you have a ground with US plugs either. It's either 2-prong (no ground) or 3-prong (grounded). Of course, then there's the question of whether your outlet was installed properly....

The wonderful insanity continues in the US with polarized plugs - one blade larger than the other, but not all appliances use this. The European 2-prong plug reminds me of a fisher price toy, but they sure are easier to plug in and pull out.

Re:My results (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387562)

I've often wondered about those huge UK plugs (which have spread to most of the former colonies where I encounter them). They seem like they could easily handle several hundred amps of current when any reasonable design would only need to handle 10 or 20 amps (like the "tiny" US or European plugs).

I am wondering if this "over-engineered" plug is the result of very conservative design or a fundamental misunderstanding of electricity). Either way, it's a pain to have to carry these huge plugs when traveling.

Re:My results (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387054)

On a side note, don't you just love those British 3-prong plugs? Just be careful not to step on one in the middle of the night barefoot! :-)

Yes, they do hurt to step on, but I do like the design, apart from their size. If they were about 2/3rds of their current size, they'd be great.

One aspect I really like about them is that the ground terminal is longer than the other two, which is used to slide a shutter in the socket out of the way to allow the live and neutral pins to plug in to the socket. This makes it difficult to poke things into the socket, which is great if you have small children.

Re:My results (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387770)

Grins.

When My younger brother was about 5 my mother was rewiring a plug to a vacuum cleaner.

She turned around to do something else leaving the plug in parts. For those of you who have no experience with British plugs most of them can be unscrewed and reconnected by hand. the fully molded ones that are common in the US have only started to show up on British equipment in the last 15 years or so.

So my little brother ever the curios little brat picked up the separate prongs.

He was smart enough to work out that if he inserted the ground prong (we call it earth in the uk) the slot opened for the other two prongs.

so he industriously inserted the other 2 prongs and was thrown across the room.

He came out of it with nothing more the a few bruises and lots of crying. And if I am honest he was lucky to survive.

But 20 years later it is funny to look back on.

I was 9 at the time and came in just in time to see all the lights go out and my little brother flying across the room.

As for the size of our plugs. They were designed at a time when the average electrical device was the size of a small washing machine. And as such the size was not an issue.

And given the fact that we have a much higher voltage and current possibility from our standard system then the US. A better comparison is not US to US plug but US to the US plugs used for washing machines and ovens. you know those big 3 phase ones that use the save voltage as British houses have all over.

As a Britt living in the US. I can assure you I get more annoyed by having to straiten out bent pins and stuff then you do by the rare occasions that carrying a large plug from one location to another is needed.

But I do remember standing on the odd plug myself in the past. Think of it as a British right of passage. you really haven't lived there until you have spent a few mins hopping around on one foot screaming.

Re:My results (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386922)

For reference, the voltage delivered is 125VAC. I'll put out the wattage instead of current drawn.
 
Cell phone charger: 10W
Washing machine: 790W
Computer: 240W
LCD monitor: 90W
IP telephone: 20W (!!!!!)
42" Hi-def plasma display: 190W
 
Crazy. That would explain why my light bill is 80 pounds per month!!
Is it just me or does your phone charger, computer and LCD monitor (and probably the other things too) seem twice as high as they should be?

Is your ammeter a UK one plugged in before the power converter or a Canadian one plugged in between the power converter and the appliance?

Something seems (to me) awry in your calculations there.

Save a bit of money and get a normal phone then (-1, Troll)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387058)

Get a normal land line wired phone without any bells & whistles and it'll consume zero watts until you take it off the hook. IP phones are just for geeks and serve no useful purpose over normal phones other than for just showing off to other geeky friends.

Re:Save a bit of money and get a normal phone then (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387302)

land line wired phone without any bells & whistles and it'll consume zero watts until you take it off the hook.

      And the watts it DOES consume are taken from the telephone company line, not your house's power.

Re:Save a bit of money and get a normal phone then (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387482)

IP phones are just for geeks and serve no useful purpose over normal phones

Ahh - there is nothing like the smell of a troll in the morning! That statement is just so ridiculous it's not worth responding to.

My polycom 601 (a high-end business phone) only takes 6.21W. If your IP phone REALLY takes 20W, I would consider replacing it. That, or your meter is whacked.

Re:Save a bit of money and get a normal phone then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387646)

Not true. We use vonage and save a lot of money over regular landline services. Using their $25/month package we get unlimited local and national calls, plus free calls to the major European countries. Prior to this we needed a local carrier, a national carrier and then international calls on top of this. Our bills varied between $80-100 a month. We have a lot of family in Europe, and call them a lot, they also used to call us a lot. But with our vonage package we always call them back immediately and save them a not too small sum on their telephone bills too. For some reason vonage fail to mention the free European calls in their TV ads. I'm sure they'd pick up a lot of business if they did.

We could probably find even cheaper IP telephony alternatives, but I don't feel the need. Connecting the vonage box to any phone socket in the house has all the phones working like a regular landline PSTN system.

Consumers need to shop for efficiency. (1)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387138)

Your LCD monitor: "90W".

Do you know that Philips makes some of the most efficient LCD monitors? I have a 19" model that consumes 34W of power.

Re:Consumers need to shop for efficiency. (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387530)

My Xerox 19's take 38W each, and my IBM is 37W. With his IP phone numbers which are 3X too high, I'm starting to believe his meter is borked.

Re:My results (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387468)

the voltage delivered is 125VAC. ... That would explain why my light bill is 80 pounds per month!!

I was sure the UK uses 225/240 Volts, not 125.

Re:My results (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387554)

That would explain why my light bill is 80 pounds per month!!

For those of us not living in the UK, what is that in kilograms?

It's regional (4, Interesting)

FST (766202) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386492)

I think it's more regional than anything else. The current definition of National household electricity consumption is, in effect, an average of household electricity consumption in different regions across the United States and is affected by many factors. However, hot summers increase the amount of electricity used for air conditioning and other space cooling, so households in southern States will tend to use more electricity. Similarly, cold winters increase the amount of energy used for space heating. Although U.S. households more frequently rely on natural gas than on electricity for heating, in the South the reverse is true, meaning that households in southern States will tend to have a peak of electricity use in winter as well as in summer.

Humidity is another climate-related factor that affects electricity consumption. Households in more humid regions tend to use air-conditioners and dehumidifiers to remove humidity. Households in arid regions, such as the Mountain States, are able to use evaporative coolers instead of air-conditioning for space cooling.

Re:It's regional (1)

captainjaroslav (893479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387168)

And yet I swear that I've heard the Pacific Northwest, with its mild summers and mild winters, has the largest per-capita energy consumption of any part of the US. Must be all of those espresso makers! Seriously, I've also heard (and I should be strung up for not citing any sources here, I'll be the first to admit) that the PNW also has the lowest electricity costs of any region in the US, so even with the higher per-capita number of environmentalists in the region, the real factor has more to do with the drain on one's bank account than anything else.

Excuse my french. (Dupe.) (-1, Redundant)

Rahga (13479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386496)

Deja Vu [slashdot.org]

Sacre Bleu (1)

Rahga (13479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386542)

Never mind... It's the summary that reads like a dupe.

Reminds me John Stewart's coverage of how Fox News uses "Questions": "Does John Murtha's push for withdrawl encourage terrorists and insurgents to increase the number of attacks on our troops in Iraq?"

Re:Sacre Bleu (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387254)

No biggie. They're close enough that you can still get some karma points by copying the +5 comments from that article and posting them here. :-)

Re:Not a Dupe. (1)

SNR monkey (1021747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386544)

I was wondering how many "dupe!!" posts there would be. I was going to post and theorize about it, because it isn't a dupe. If you RTFS, you'd see it references the link that you posted. The story is a REACTION to that previous slashdot story. Thanks for playing.

Re:Excuse my french. (Dupe.) (1)

geeber (520231) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386546)

Nope. It's a response to the article you linked to. The article you linked to was also linked to by the submitter. Things have gotten REALLY bad when people can't even be bothered to read the first sentence of the summary.

Color TVs? Is that really necessary to specify? (4, Funny)

thc69 (98798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386510)

particularly for color TVs and computer equipment
Oh good, all my black and white TVs and computer equipment are okay...

Re:Color TVs? Is that really necessary to specify? (2, Insightful)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386724)

Oh good, all my black and white TVs and computer equipment are okay...

I know that was meant to be a snark, but...,/P>

Monochrome CRTs use remarkably little energy.

Re:Color TVs? Is that really necessary to specify? (5, Funny)

Forseti (192792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387672)

Monochrome CRTs use remarkably little energy.

Obviously! None of them have been plugged in for 20 years! ;-)

Trends vs Actual consumption... (4, Insightful)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386520)

So, who is right? The WSJ or the article referenced? Actually both.

The article referenced talks about the trends for energy consumption. And, in that respect, the consumer electronics win hands down, since more and more people buy computers, flat-screen TVs and assorted electronic gadgets. On the other hand, the WSJ is right, since the overall energy consumption of these gadgets is still a very small fraction of the total.

One thing that I'd personally like to do soon would be to compare the electricity used by all my computers (6 and counting, including a big Sun workstation, 3 laptops, a modem/router, a wireless access point, a laser printer, etc) vs the overall electricity usage in my home. I have relatively modern equipment, and I am currently switching everything to low-power equipment.

More efficient and More Prolific (4, Insightful)

tacocat (527354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386638)

Sure they might run instant on feature that takes some current drain 24x7 so they can do a warm start. Or a clock.

Chase down the Off-Grid living web sites and you'll soon find that one of the biggest problems people have when they first try to do off grid is all their appliances that drain just a little power all night long, leaving insufficient power for the morning routines.

I have three digital clocks in my kitchen, two in my entertainment center... I don't own a watch anymore because I realized that there is no place except the bathroom that I can stand in my house and not see a clock face. And I don't own any clocks!

The need for everything to have a digital clock and instant on takes up a lot more power then you think. Turn everything off and go look at your meter. it's still chugging along rather nicely. We could do much better if we dropped the clocks and dropped the instant on. Tube televisions took minutes to warm up. Solid State televisions take a few seconds to warm up. Instant On only saves me 3 seconds at most.

Re:More efficient and More Prolific (2, Interesting)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386794)

What particularly bugs me is that when I bought a new LCD TV last year, I discovered it had no power switch. It has a standby button, but the only way of turning it off is at the wall/powerstrip. On a related note, decidedly unhappy with the Wii's 24-hour on mode; I'd be more accepting if it wasn't required for things like Mii transfer to work, but there's no way of telling it to do network maintenance when it's first turned on each day.

Re:More efficient and More Prolific (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386896)

My TV's even worse. Not only does it not have an Off switch, but it doesn't store its settings in Flash anywhere. So if I *do* unplug it, or if the power goes out, it defaults to the wrong input, channel 2 (wrong channel) and volume SUPER LOUD.

Re:More efficient and More Prolific (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387508)

I thought the SUPER-LOUD-when-you-first-switch-them-on TVs (especially Philips models) were only found in hotels.

I've always suspected that the audio defaults were finalised by a senior engineer who was a little bit deaf from years of working on TV and hifi equipment.

Re:More efficient and More Prolific (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387528)

The question here of course is "how much power does it draw in Standby mode?" I know there is a lot of gnashing of teeth about the power draw from standby mode, but most of the appliances I've tested draw only 300mA or so in standby, which is like leaving your front door open for an extra 3 seconds when entering the house.

Save the freaking information. (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387190)

One thing that really annoys me is that most televisions, DVD players, VCRs, game consoles, etc lose their data and have to have some level of reconfiguration on start-up if you hard kill their power. I'd love to be able to put all that crap on a power strip that I could flip everything on, or off, at once on and save some power when I don't need them. It doesn't cost all that much more (a couple dollars) to build such items to retain such information when cut off from power - most companies just don't bother. As far as I know there isn't even any label for the consumer to look for to know which items would retain such information.

For that matter why does every device in my house require configuration? IMO I don't even need a real tv anymore - cut out the tuner and pretty much all options and just make it work as a monitor for whatever devices are plugged into it. If everything needs to know the time then why don't we design them all to use the atomic time as broadcast or design homes to broadcast their own time signal. Why do I need to configure everything to know what everything else is? Have the tv and devices attached to it auto-sense each other and auto-configure properly. (And off-topic, but related, why do we need so many cords? Can't we figure out how to send power and data on the same single cord so I don't need twenty cables behind my damn tv?)

Its good to see the few key things called out... (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386652)

He's absolutely right. Ignoring AC costs, IMO its house size that is causing the increase in usage, and its changes in how houses are lit. 20 years ago houses were lit typically with a single fixture in a room, and lamps. (Or, if you're in the northeast US, typically just lamps, although I couldn't tell you why that is...)

These days lighting design is all the rage, and its common to have 4 or more fixtures in a room, often R30 can lights at 65w each projecting downward so you need 4 or more to light a room. The room I'm in right now visiting my parents has 4 can lights, a light with 4 60 watt bulbs in it, and two recessed spot lights of unknown power. Ignoring those, its still 500 watts to light this room.

My house is 60+ years old, but was renovated six years ago -- most of it is can lit as well. It has 24 65 watt R30 can lights in it, among all the other lights.

I saw a nearly $30 a month drop in my electric bill switching the entire house to CFL. Dimmable R30 bulbs are pricey, $12+ each, but they will have payed themselves off in a year. I typically am facist about keeping lights off, too... I'm sure the savings would be double that if I had kids leaving them on all the time.

On a geek note, I also got a $30 savings a month by making changes in the data center in the basement. An old HP rack server was replaced with a much less power hungry desktop box which was faster... that saved 75% of the electricity it used to use. Three other desktop boxes which were slower were replaced with two free laptops with broken screens I got from friends who tend to break their laptops. The upside as well is that one small UPS can power everything for almost an hour.

Lighting Policy (1)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386928)

I am bulding my own house, and early on my wife and I agreed on a lighting policy. The
idea is to have low-level lighting for navigation putposes, with task lighting for extra
illiumination right where you need it (desk lamps, light in the cosmetic area, closet lgiths
& cabinet lights on door siwtches, a light in the shower on a timer, etc).

Of course, since I'm building the house myself, right now all we have are drop lights hooked to
extension coords! At least there are floursecent bulbs in those drop lights!

Maxim

Re:Its good to see the few key things called out.. (1)

Hubertus_BigenD (877546) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387534)

you could try those new flourescent bulbs. They fit into any regular incandescent plug,the lighting looks like incandescent,and they use 25% as much power in the 60W(brightness) bulbs.

Re:Its good to see the few key things called out.. (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387556)

where did you find the dimmable R-30s (and do they have r-40s) I've been looking to replace the 7 in this room and the ones in the living room

Re:Its good to see the few key things called out.. (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387608)

Next step is VMWare/Xen, and downsizing a couple of stray servers. This is when some sort of power-generation scheme for the home begins to look attractive. Thermoelectric materials near the stove/shower/fireplace would seem to be a good start, but probably not for anything larger than a CFL or two.

Remotes + Sleep mode (3, Interesting)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386670)

When we first got a TV (1988), the TV had a power switch, five channels and definitely no remote. So, whenever we didn't need the TV, we just switched off the power and turned it on when we needed it.

When 1999 dawned, the TV was a flat screen 25" with a remote. And lo, we would turn off the power for the TV only when we left the house (locked up) or at night. And that was just because my house was on the very top of a hill and power lines were often hit by lightning (yeah, I had my modem explode once).

And finally, now in 2006 (in a different city), I have six things plugged in - from DVD player to the TV itself. And it is such a big mess that nobody ever unplugs anything at all - just use the remote to turn it on & off. That sleep mode does take a fair bit of power (well, tens of watts) which is just going to an absolute waste (well, heating the room).

It is these un-noticed devices which suck a constant, but econonomically neglible drain - which could be avoided. The things you can fix aren't always the biggest consumers (water heaters, refrigerator) but small things like these - in a global level.

It is not just such permanently on stuff that you have - the average geek still has more connectors than you'd think. I realized this when I was in the high himalayas - and we were charging [flickr.com] stuff before we left human habitation. (Oh, took the laptop to 18,000 feet).

Re:Remotes + Sleep mode (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387588)

Instead of unplugging all of those things, you could simply get a good surge protector and flip the switch to off or if you really wanted to be sure, you could have easy access to your fuse box and simply flip those switches to off when you are using items in a particular room.

    That is, if you were interested in saving electricity.

the same verdict is being reached all over (4, Informative)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386742)

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article on energy conservation in the home: Surprise: Not-so-glamorous conservation works best [csmonitor.com] . The two biggest issues to tackle are lighting and heating. Consider this:
although residences consume only about two-fifths of this as electricity, because electrical generation is inherently inefficient, it accounts for 71 percent of household emissions. A home's electrical use may be responsible for more CO2 emissions than the two cars in the driveway.

Re:the same verdict is being reached all over (1)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386838)

That article makes a very good point (indirectly): smaller gains made by 80% of people beat that crap out of huge gaisn made by
2% of people.

supply & demand (1)

nih (411096) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386752)

This is just supply & demand, as the demand for more power efficient
electronics grows then companies will be driven to supply them.

Re:supply & demand (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17386798)

Right... When the kids start demanding broccoli, we'll serve it. Until then, more candy.

Re:supply & demand (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386944)

If you can't tell the difference between a consenting adult and a kid, I think they better lock you up.

Re:supply & demand (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387232)

tell the difference between a consenting adult and a kid

      To be honest, for most adults I have met, the main difference is age.

Standby estimates (2)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386762)

A friend of mine rents a loft in my house and he asked me to check out why his part
of our power bill was so much greater (he now has a meter). Turns out his standby
power on all his devices is half of his total average power draw. They are on all the
time, after all, whereas the bigegr items are used mkore rarely. He also has more
gizmos than you can shake a stick at. To sum thar up: when he's away from the house
on vacation or whatever, with TVs and compuetrs off, his power draw is still at 50% of
the noraml amount. For what's it's worth...

Maxim'

two simple things would totally fix it (3, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386764)

1) Off buttons that really turn off the power, not just put the device in a 'standby mode'.

2) Manufacturers should be obliged to make low-voltage devices have transformers internal(and wired after the power switch), and make those really annoying power bricks you now get with everything illegal.

Apart from usually being a ridiculous single-piece design that occludes several other sockets in a power strip, they cause massive cable tangles and practical use requires that they be left permanently powered-on.

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386820)

Actually - removing standby buttons would be a bloody silly idea. At least with Macs, I'm lead to believe that the power used to boot the machine is greater than the power used to keep the machine sleeping for a week, so roll on those standby buttons. Bob

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (4, Interesting)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387152)

OK, here are the numbers for a mac mini (no monitor - just the cpu.)

Powered off: 0.035A
Booting: 0.250A - 0.320A
On, but idle: 0.180A - 0.250A
Sleep mode: 0.050A
Unplugged: 0.0A

So booting isn't that much more power than idle, and it's for a short period of time.

I find it interesting that powered off isn't really powered off, so you are better off using the switch on your power strip than relying on the mac "off" mode, which isn't a whole lot better than sleep.

Someone who wants to play with math more than me can figure out the break-even points, but it's clear that you are far better off unplugging your mac and rebooting overnight than leaving it in sleep mode. It's a no-brainer for a week. This basically says, unplug all your crap when you go on vacation, because with modern electronics, off isn't off.

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387610)

At least with Macs, I'm lead to believe that the power used to boot the machine is greater than the power used to keep the machine sleeping for a week,

This is like that prevalent myth that turning a fluorescent light on and off uses up more energy than running it all day.

If your Mac takes 1 minute to boot, for your claim to be true it would have to draw 60x24x7 times as much power as it does when "sleeping", i.e., if it draws 5W when sleeping (surely it would be more) then booting would draw over 50kW. I think not. (If it takes 2 minutes to boot, half that, if 30 seconds, double; same ball park.)

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (1)

swb (14022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387144)

What's the manufacturing/engineering/economic reason that so many things use external power bricks instead of internal transformers?

Has the manufacturing of power bricks become so efficient that they are in effect "free" and device designers simply assume a DC power source?

Does the extra space/heat/complexity of including the transformer within the device and the larger power connector required to actually plug it in make the devices that much more expensive to manufacture or somehow less attractive to customers because their 4x4x1 gizmo is now 5x5x2?

It just seems kind of baffling to me -- the transformer circuits are probably "circuits 101" in terms of complexity and they're not that large. I just don't understand how its cheaper and simpler to source bricks from a third party (and all the associated logistics) as well as the more complicated packaging (usually you see much more elaborate internal packaging for bricks).

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (5, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387270)

What's the manufacturing/engineering/economic reason that so many things use external power bricks instead of internal transformers?

Glad you asked. The main reason is safety regulations. Devices that plug in to your household power need 3rd party certification (e.g. UL approval in US). Power supply design is a specialty, and although any EE could do it, not all can do it well, quickly and cheaply. If you (as designer) spec an external transformer, then you don't have to worry about the approval. You just buy an approved transformer and design your device to work on low voltage. This saves you thousands of dollars and many man-hours of time per design by not having to hire an independent lab to verify your safety compliance.

As an additional benefit, you can sell you product to work with different AC voltages just by supplying the appropriate transformer for each market. Plus, when you buy an external transformer, you get economies of scale because it can power not only your devices but many others built by thousands of other firms.

Re:two simple things would totally fix it (1)

ex-geek (847495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387184)

2) Manufacturers should be obliged to make low-voltage devices have transformers internal(and wired after the power switch), and make those really annoying power bricks you now get with everything illegal.

What I'd like to do is to power peripherals with the efficient power supply of my PC instead of having to independently manage a myriad of said annoying bricks.

USB maxes out at 2.5W, which is at least good enough to power a scanner, but not much more.

I'm pretty sure... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386824)

...my computer is using a lot more power than before - then again, it didn't play back HDTV or very impressive 3D games before either. And my last TV, well it's a lot bigger and thus draws a lot more watts than my last one. Compare that to a washing machine - it washes my clothes, they get clean. Two thumbs up for that, I don't need one spinning twice as fast. I must admit, I don't think energy efficiency when I look at power draw, I think cooling and noise - sitting in front of a computer is hardly an expensive hobby (or at least not because of the electricity bill). If I could get a computer with same price, same power, twice the powerdraw and fanless/SSD I'd get one in a heartbeat. All the options are either notoriously expensive (quiet hardware), cumbersome (cables and closet) or underpowered (thin front-end boxes). But in no case have I thought "This would use too much power"

Re:I'm pretty sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387024)

Compare that to a washing machine - it washes my clothes, they get clean. Two thumbs up for that, I don't need one spinning twice as fast.

Better quality washing machines do spin faster. The typical range for spin drying is between 600RPM and 1800RPM. I have seen commercial washing machines with spin cycles of 3200RPM. Faster spin cycles will wring more waster out of the clothes, reducing the drying time. This might save you money if you use a tumble dryer.

Ehh (1)

Kim Jong Ill (1033418) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386862)

Do Tesla coils count as home electronics?

Re:Ehh (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387188)

Do Tesla coils count as home electronics?

      Only if they generate less than 10M V...

mod Down (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17386890)

vary 7or diiferent OF AMERICA irc distribution make

Gadgets using more power, lights can use less powe (4, Interesting)

Secrity (742221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386962)

I admit it, I now have more gadgets drawing current than I did five years ago. I have also reduced power consumption in the past five years. Five years ago, my typical electric bill was US $125 a month, it is now in the $75 range. None of the changes have caused any hardships or reduction in quality of life.

1. Replaced heat pump with a more efficient model and installed set back thermostat. I lucked out, the compressor crapped out and I had a service policy. The impact on quality of life is nil, I had to learn the new thermostat.

2. Replaced refrigerator with a more efficient model. It was expensive but the old refrigerator was about 30 years old and was reaching the end of it's service life. It is a nicer refrigerator than the old one and it is quieter.

3. Replaced commonly used light bulbs with compact fluorescent. This was an inexpensive change and it had the most impact on quality of life. The color and light quality of the new compact fluorescents compares to the old lights but they take a few minutes to produce full light output. They remind me of a tube type radio warming up.

I think that the most interesting replacements were the night lights. I replaced the 6 night lights that used to draw about 4 watts each with LEDs. I connected a wall wart to an unused wire pair in my home telephone wiring and I use the phone wiring to transport power to my night light LEDs. I had the wall wart, LEDs, and other parts in my junk box -- and they work great.

The light conversion is both saving power used for lighting and reducing the summer air conditioning load. Someday I might even figure out how long it will take to save any money by replacing those lights. The main light in the living room was a 300 watt halogen torchiere which I replaced with three fluorescent flood lights which cost $35 for a new floor lamp and bulbs, rated power consumption went from 300 watts down to about 75 watts; and I frequently don't turn on all three of the bulbs. This summer I noticed that the living room was much cooler with the new lights. The kitchen is saving a similar amount of watts but the lights in the kitchen are not used very often.

Not the problem, but not ignorable (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386984)

This article has COMPLETELY missed the point.

Consumer electronics do increasingly contribute to a home's electric budget, but only by virtue of quantity. Except for PCs and TVs, most products draw a pittance. For PCs, they did draw more and more power from the mid-80s to a year or two ago, but newer CPUs have finally addressed that problem (and power supplies have gotten more efficient as well). For TVs, larger means more power, but the tech has drastically improved... A 50" plasma draws comparable to a 30" old-style CRT, and LCDs drop that by another 80% or so.

The real power-hungry devices in most homes haven't changed in 50 years... Refridgerator, electric stove/oven, electric clothesdryer, electric water heater, AC, electric heat (so bad that you virtually never see it in places that actually get cold). Simply cooking dinner every night on an electric stovetop puts every high-tech toy in the house combined to shame for power draw.

Re:Not the problem, but not ignorable (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387156)

but newer CPUs have finally addressed that problem (and power supplies have gotten more efficient as well).

      Are you saying that my PC XT with a CGA card, a dinky little power supply fan, and a 150 watt power supply was less power hungry than my Athlon 64 X2 Dual with 2 top of the line video cards, SIX fans, and that REQUIRES (I know this cos I have already burned 2 out) at least a 550 Watt power supply to run? Computers were more efficient a few years ago around the 1990's, but now they serve as processing units AND space heaters...

Re:Not the problem, but not ignorable (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387370)

A Geforce 8800 uses more power in idle alone than 3 386 computers with 14" b/w monitors...

New definition to always on (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387040)

My TV has a power button, which works as a hard power button. There's also the TV remote, which puts the TV into the "soft-off" state where it's ready to turn on, but not exactly off. That's not all - when there's a power failure, the TV turns on as soon as power is restored. Given the size of the TV, I guess the manufacturer thought it would be used as a Kiosk where it needed to be always on rather than being used at home.

I guess it's no worse than the "Wake on Modem" that's enabled by default in the computer bios.

Re:New definition to always on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387262)

It's variable. Our Pioneer plasma uses a massive 26W when in standby mode. We always kill all power via a power strip so it doesn't really affect us, but I'm pretty sure the vast majority of owners of these sets don't do that. The STB uses ~20W too, pushing us up to almost 50W for two devices that are supposed to be almost off.

You also have to be wary of power consumption when is use. Ours can get up to 300W, awful really, but the equivalent Panasonic plasmas hit 500W! LCD panels are almost as bad as plasmas when you get into TV size panels too, although I never saw anything as disgraceful as the Panasonic's consumption. This company should be named and shamed with Energy Star badges revoked.

Re:New definition to always on (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387348)

Sounds like computers. The first one I remember using was an old Dell that used to belong to my uncle. The switch on there was the sort you use on lights, with two exciting settings - on or off.

With the advent of things like ACPI and APM, computers (and other consumer appliances) are always on unless you flick the hard switch at the back or unplug it at the mains.

I think I've worked out the culprit. Almost every consumer appliance has a clock nowadays, but very few have CMOS batteries - maybe it's because they can't be bothered to reset the clock after switching them back on.

Idle usage (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387066)

It is interesting to take his numbers and do a bit of arithmetic. The highest power user is the kettle, but is only on for (say) 10 minutes a day, whereas the DVD and microwave are on all day (1440 minutes) [I assume that you never cook anything for watch a film]:

what.. usage mins watt-minutes
m.wave 3 1440 4,320
dvd... 7 1440 10,080
kettle 1475 10 14,750

So what you think is the big user (kettle) is about the same as the microwave.

that's good and all... (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387118)

...but what about my george foreman grill!?

It's not all wasted energy (1)

Elkboy (770849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387126)

The heat generated by my computer is cosy now during winter. I assume it's the same for all gadgets to some extent. Of course, this becomes a nuisance come summer...

woo (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387130)

A Wall Street Journal columnist

Cool, you establish the lack of credibility with the first sentence; that's very convenient.

Wastage here and there from small devices adds up (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387336)

My Creative Labs computer speakers draw 75% power of the "on" when supposedly turned "off". The power adapter for it is always hot. Lots of little devices like this are each costing $10-20 per year in electricity when not in use. It starts to add up. Multiply that across a nation, and that's a huge amount of wasted electricity, as well as pollution. Electricity companies aren't charities, but we're giving them more money for no reason than a lot of people give to charity. I'm sure if people turned their thermostats up in summer and down in winter, and dressed appropriately for the season, then bigger savings could be made than just unplugging unused devices. It would be nice if power sockets here in N. America came fitted with individual on/off switches, as is standard in the UK - these devices could continue to live plugged in to the wall, but with their consumption more easily controlled.

Lost in the noise (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387402)


I'd venture that LED lighting in the home will become mainstream within the next 10 years. Given that lightbulbs make up about 33% of a home's power consumption & they will be going from 40-100 watts a piece to 2-6 watts, isn't the complaining about gadgets power draw a little ... hot headed?

So long as our power generation is cyclical when it comes to CO2, it really doesn't matter what we spend the energy doing. Getting to solar, wind & biofuel generation is a real target, not making a phone recharger more intelligent.

Enough: show me the $ savings (1)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387440)

I've dropped my electricity consumption by more than half. This chart on my blog [blogspot.com] shows my total KWHs consumed over five years.

Sure, I replaced incandescent bulbs with CFLs when I moved in. So where is the savings? I optimized things like computers and then "insignificant, low-power" devices.

I'd love to see this journalist's KWHs per year over the past 5 years. I've love to see how many KWH he consumes a month. Perhaps given his waste, a savings of 100 KWH/month is insignificant.

Some people think that saving $200 a year in electricity is just about the same as saving nothing - because saving less than $20 per month is not worth thinking about. But for me, saving $200 a year is significant, and I don't mind if I have to do it in $17 increments over 12 months.

(note: I have a natural gas dryer, hot water heater, furnace, and oven)

Computer PSU and monitor (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387740)

Not all my PCs have had this, but most PSUs I've used have 2 plugs in them: one to get power from the wall outlet, another to power the screen. If I were to connect the screen to some other source and keep more peripherals running off of the computer's PSU, that would probably shut them down as the computer goes to sleep, right? I'm thinking of speakers, printer, scanner, ie: all the stuff that doesn't do anything when the PC sleeps/is off.

Gadgets smadgets (2, Insightful)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387772)

The Wall Street Journal is right (for once). The vast majority any house's electrical costs are Heating-Air Conditioning, and Water heating (baring designs using solar water heaters, and below ground air conditioning, I acknowledge that you exist, but let's face it, you're far less than 1% of the population). If electrical usage is rising, its the fault of the rise of McMansions, and generally larger housing in general. Most housing in the US is poorly designed and piss-poor insulated, with dozens of windows. All of which add hugely to HAC. Windows in particular are a huge elephant of electricity costs, especially the huge ones popular today, built with no consideration at all about where the sun is going to be at different seasons.

Just got a Watts up? Pro for Christmas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17387776)

It's a data-logging power meter. Looks pretty sweet, and hard data beats anything you hear on Slashdot.

Anybody know if there's a Linux front-end for this puppy, or do I have to try to knock something together?

Gadgets probably take a much lower % for most (1)

floatingtrem (985721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387804)

While it was a well written and reasoned article, he forgets that he spends a lot of time and money keeping the rest of his house low on the power usage. Most Americans still use their 2 decade old appliances and incandescent bulbs. Assuming that the average household's appliances are twice as power hungry that brings 30% towards TV and PC down below 18% of the bill. But I wouldn't be surprised if if most people's appliances are much more thirsty than that. And what about an electric range?
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