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Saving Power in your Home Office

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Power 285

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 elsewhere (5, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 6 years ago | (#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..

Re:Saving elsewhere (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364887)

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.

Re:Saving elsewhere (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365441)

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?

Re:Saving elsewhere (4, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Saving elsewhere (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366351)

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 (2, Informative)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365973)

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 friendly (i.e. beyond using a common internet connection). Some people use old computers as firewalls, routers, file servers, etc. and some people simply can't throw things out. There's a second desktop that I use for playing older games that don't run properly on newer OSes, but it's off unless I'm using it. I've probably got parts enough to build two or three computers (less cases) stored in my closet because there's no reason to throw out old but working parts. I would say that is probably true of a signifigant number of Slashdotters.

Anytime some one says "Oh my is broken", I've probably got a replacement and I simply give the part away. I admit that having a bunch of computers running 'just because' is probably wasteful in terms of electricity cost, but throwing them out is wasteful if they're just going to sit in a landfill.

Re:Saving elsewhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365979)

Have you heard that some homes contain more than one person?

Re:Saving elsewhere (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365955)

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
Maybe in your part of the world that's how people buy cars, but here it's:
1) Can I afford it?
2) Do I look good in it?
3) Do the babes like it and will it get me laid?

Re:Saving elsewhere (1)

graphicsguy (710710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366057)

Unfortunately, they tend to overestimate their positive response to all three. At least slashdotters should be able to estimate #1 correctly.

Re:Saving elsewhere (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365537)

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.

Re:Saving elsewhere (1)

graphicsguy (710710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366121)

Huh? The point is that the increased up-front cost to the consumer is the disincentive.

Re:Saving elsewhere (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366659)

That's a hidden disincentive to buy a new toy, not an overt disincentive to discard the old one. It's very different.

Re:Saving elsewhere (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365593)

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 that sucks down some power...then the old Dell server I've played with...that's in storage right now, but I'm hoping to get it back out again..I can't remember the model, but, it is a dual supply with about 10 or so scsi drives in it...I keep my mac laptop on most of the time, I have a couple of dell boxes...one for quickbooks, etc...another is my mythtv box...I'm about to put about 2 TB worth of drives in an old compaq box...use it for some backup and file server for me and my friends....my email server is an old sun ultra 2, with gentoo on it.

Most all of those are on 24/7. I do like to recycle older servers, I can get them in good shape on ebay and around town...but, they do suck up the juice. I pay the bills, and they don't seem that bad....especially in the winter...since I'm pretty warm natured, I rarely turn on the heat, but, the rest of the year, it is the AC that sucks up the energy.

I usually have my tv's on when I'm home...and usually sleep with at least one of them on...it is my nightlight.

I guess recycling computers, while it saves them from the landfill....will consume more electricity...at least if you use them like I like to.

On the other hand...I'm not terribly worried about conserving this or that...or being 'green'. As long as I can afford to do the things I want...I'll do them. No SUV's though..I don't like them...too big and WAY too many seats. I prefer 2 seaters...

Re:Saving elsewhere (1, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366153)

If we had more nuclear power plants, we wouldn't have to worry about saving electricity. Give me more electricity!

Spreadsheet makes sense (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364735)

850 untis * 77.1 cents gives a saving of 100,000 mackerals.

Excel 2007 FTW!

In arabia (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21364747)

the dune coons want to save power too.

SETI@Home (3, Interesting)

Czmyt (689032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364771)

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:SETI@Home (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21364799)

...until I realized that they use less power when the processors are idling as opposed to processing at full speed.

Woah woah woah, Skippy. Where did you get this crazy idea from?

Re:SETI@Home (3, Funny)

warrenb10 (724789) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366135)

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! (4, Funny)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364793)

I unplugged that appliance that measured my electric usage. However, the power company didn't see the benefit the way I did.

love to see more of this (5, Interesting)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:love to see more of this (5, Insightful)

pinkocommie (696223) | more than 6 years ago | (#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)

Re:love to see more of this (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:love to see more of this (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366203)

Also, make sure your old items are recycled

Especially given the recent developments in uncovering the way electronic waste is handled. Often times it is simply dumped, which allows all sorts of nasty stuff to get into the soil. Granted this happens in the third world most of the time. However, if you'll recall the lead used in Chinese made goods has actually been traced to electronics waste. So, RECYCLE FOR SURE!!!

Re:love to see more of this (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366695)

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?

Re:love to see more of this (2, Informative)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365145)

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).

Re:love to see more of this (1)

woztheproblem (454186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365663)

Um, manufacturing/energy costs can't be more than the price of the item, otherwise the company would be losing money!

Re:love to see more of this (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366095)

The plant in China that makes it pays far less for power than you do. I've seen figures that range from about US$.002 to $.04 per kW.

Re:love to see more of this (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365325)

Amazon has a cool gadget for about $20 that measures the juice flowing to anything you plug it into and calculates daily/monthly/yearly costs. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00009MDBU/ref=wl_itt_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2O7IO9WK8UN35&colid=132ARCDMK1RF2/ [amazon.com]

Re:love to see more of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21366287)

RTFA?

Re:love to see more of this (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365407)

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.

Re:love to see more of this (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365953)

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:love to see more of this (2, Insightful)

hankwang (413283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365921)

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 situation in the US, though.

Re:love to see more of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21366321)

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?

I've seen some LCDs use almost as much or more power than a CRT of equivalent or slightly smaller size.

Re:love to see more of this (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366719)

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.

Measuring your power (2, Interesting)

Lurks (526137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364859)

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.

90 whole dollars (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364883)

How much time and energy does it take to "save" 90 dollars? Maybe being cognizant of power consumption on new purchases is handy, but spending a weekend dicking around with stuff is a waste of money.

Re:90 whole dollars (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365005)

How much money does it cost to save that much energy as well? I kind of scanned the article, but one thing I did notice was that $200 was spent on a new LCD monitor to replace the CRT. If we assume 100% of the energy savings came from that one purchase (which it didn't), it will take more than 2 years to recoup the money spent on that one purchase, and there was no indication that there was anything wrong with the older monitor other than that it used too much energy.

I would advocate buying newer more energy efficient equipment as your old equipment dies, but I would not advocate going out and replacing perfectly good equipment with more energy efficient (and more expensive) alternatives. It will not only cost you a lot of money, but will also mean more waste from throwing out perfectly good equipment that will likely end up in a landfill.

you didn't read the FA? (2, Informative)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365101)

It said the new LCD was better on the eyes. I think it worths $200 to not ruin your eyes...
But i agree, he probably spent 5x more to save $90.

Re:90 whole dollars (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365115)

How much money does it cost to save that much energy as well? I kind of scanned the article, but one thing I did notice was that $200 was spent on a new LCD monitor to replace the CRT. If we assume 100% of the energy savings came from that one purchase (which it didn't), it will take more than 2 years to recoup the money spent on that one purchase

And for this reason, the government must subsidize energy-efficient monitors and TV's (like LCD's) so the change is viable for the consumer (and subsidizing the newest LED light bulbs wouldn't be a bad idea, either).

Re:90 whole dollars (3, Funny)

Tintivilus (88810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366519)

I really got the feeling that this article was just his way of convincing his wife to let him buy a new monitor.

Re:90 whole dollars (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365725)

but spending a weekend dicking around with stuff is a waste of money.

I know it's an anathema to most Americans, but the idea with these initiatives should not be individual gain - Rather, it should be looked at as societal gain. It's like switching to compact fluorescent 'bulbs' - The savings on your *own* energy bill might only be a few dollars a year, but the savings to society as a whole would be huge, i.e one less coal plant, less dependence on Saudi oil or whatever. Same deal here.

Re:90 whole dollars (1)

graphicsguy (710710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366435)

True. But "society" had better improve the availability of (and education about) proper disposal for CF bulbs. In a few years when all the bulbs sold in the recent surge wear out, most will probably go into the regular trash and landfill.

How about we ... (1)

kihbord (724079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364937)

all go back to using candles and get rid of all our gadgets (except mine of course). What say you?

Re:How about we ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365053)

Candles cause a large number of house fires, and the resultant smoke and soot are not good for the environment. And a large number of destroyed houses makes a neighborhood look less attractive.

Re:How about we ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365109)

all go back to using candles and get rid of all our gadgets (except mine of course). What say you?


I completely agree. In fact, I am posting this message to slashdot by banging piezo rocks together near a couple of salt-water (conductive) streams. But, I think candles are extremely wasteful technology and I use natural firefly technology to see in the dark.

Re:How about we ... (1)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365629)

"and I use natural firefly technology to see in the dark."

pfft. Fireflies and piezo rocks? How extravagant. You must be one of those fat cats down at the power company. Me? I'm posting this via smoke signal protocol generated by burning my own feces. I use natural 'hands' technology to feel-around in the dark.

Re:How about we ... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365297)

Yeah. Just think how fast your internet connection would be with your computer being the only device connected to it! No more sharing of bandwitdth with anyone!. ;)

Re:How about we ... (1)

kihbord (724079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365951)

Now, if I could only figure out how to power my computer using candles. :-)

Compact fluorescents (3, Informative)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365681)

In terms of grams of CO2 per candela, a candle has a carbon profile worse than that of an incandescent bulb. Beeswax candles are an exception but most paraffin wax is derived from petroleum.

Larger scale (2, Informative)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21364953)

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.

Re:Larger scale (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365169)

Although there's not much individuals can do about it, here's another look [cnn.com] at the bigger pictures.

Kill-A-Watt (3, Insightful)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Kill-A-Watt (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365449)

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 (3, Informative)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 6 years ago | (#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]

Re:Watts vs. VA (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366197)

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?

Kill-A-Watt and "80 Plus" (4, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Kill-A-Watt and "80 Plus" (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365679)

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?

Re:Kill-A-Watt and "80 Plus" (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366267)

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.

Re:Kill-A-Watt and "80 Plus" (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366473)

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 power factor of the computer supply was lousy, about 0.66, and much heat was generated for no work done.

Re:Kill-A-Watt and "80 Plus" (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365933)

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.

$90? Cost of new gadgets? (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365071)

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)

Sensible (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365079)

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.

Re:Sensible (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365345)

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 (3, Informative)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366699)

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???? (4, Informative)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Re:Only $90/year???? (4, Insightful)

mdalal97 (256621) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Only $90/year???? (1)

graphicsguy (710710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366593)

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.

Re:Only $90/year???? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365347)

Just be careful not to follow this advice too many times...

Re:Only $90/year???? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366569)

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!

Why not combine both?

Old and Power Hungry (2, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365113)

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.

False economy (1)

jointm1k (591234) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365139)

What he saves on his electricity bill, he will have to spend on his heating bill.

Re:False economy (3, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365219)

What he saves on his electricity bill, he will have to spend on his heating bill.

Where I live, electricity is about twice as expensive as natural gas for heating, so heating with waste heat is not quite as economical as one would think. Plus it's an extra liability in cooling season. But when I heated with resistive electric in an apartment, I too didn't worry too much about leaving things on in the wintertime.

Re:False economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365361)

Only in the winter. In the summer it'll save his air conditioning.

Re:False economy (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366579)

What he saves on his electricity bill, he will have to spend on his heating bill.

Depends on where he lives. If it doesn't get particularly cold in winter, or if hot days outnumber cold, then it won't be a problem. And as another poster pointed out, it could save energy on air conditioning.

I live in Southern California, where heating costs over the course of a year are negligible, but cooling costs can get pretty high during summer... and sometimes spring, and during the usual October heat wave, and I remember one time I moved during the week between Christmas and New Year's, and it was the hottest December day I'd ever experienced.

Wasn't there an article on power switches? (1)

CambodiaSam (1153015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365183)

I seem to think that any one of the power switches featured in a previous article would do nicely to reduce power consumption. Something about disabling electronics with the extreme prejudice of a "thud" followed by the lights flickering tells me that I'm going to save some cash.

Energy efficient != good technology (2, Insightful)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Energy efficient != good technology (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365863)

What about if a CRT uses less power than my new HDTV of similar size?

That'd be one sweet bit of CRT technology.

"targeted the energy pigs for replacement" (1)

SlipperHat (1185737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365365)

Methinks slaughtering those energy pigs, roasting them, then consuming should save the home some power. Bonus points, if you roast them using their own fat as cooking fuel. (ouch - no one said environmentalism was not ironic).

The problem implicit: no value for the individual (4, Insightful)

skoda (211470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365395)

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.

Re:The problem implicit: no value for the individu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21365675)


Coal mine fires will be eliminated by individuals. They will be individuals who operate coal mines, or run coal mining companies, or regulate the coal mining industry. But each and every one of them will be an individual.

There is no need, nor any possibility, of "leadership" in sustainable living because "leadership" always means "coercion", and coercion is unsustainable. Even the more benign forms of government intervention, like subsidization, are unsustainable.

Sustainable environmental change will only come when the way we bill for energy usage is changed, such that the first few hundred kWhr are relatively cheap and the rest get progressively more expensive. This would recognize that energy is as necessary as food for modern life, but still punish gluttons. Taxing energy usage or carbon dioxide production would of course be as unsustainable as any other coercive action unless it was done as part of a large-scale shift in the tax code as proposed by Ontario's Green Party (in that case the coercive nature of the tax code remains constant, but the burden is shifted from environmentally friendly activities to less friendly ones.)

In any case, every watt anywhere is always used by an individual for the purposes of that individual or under the orders of that individual. Anyone who says, "There is nothing an individual can do" is saying, "There is nothing to be done." On the contrary: reducing your own individual energy use is all that there is to be done. Everything else is just wanking.

Hand down that old CRT rather than tossing it. (2, Insightful)

adminstring (608310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366027)

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 or low-income people. Or you could give it to Goodwill or post it on Craigslist, where it will end up with someone who needs a monitor and might have otherwise bought a new one. If it exists in your town, you could even freecycle it. This is a great way to keep things out of the landfill - it's a lot more efficient than donating to a thrift shop for specialty items. When someone needs something in particular, they don't have to go to a dozen thrift shops looking for it, they just do a computer search or post a request.

Re:The problem implicit: no value for the individu (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366747)

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 instead of having it properly recycled. I don't see why you'd assume that.

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.

$90 * 100 million homes = $9 billion / year. Not trival at all.

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.

If it were "easy" to put out a coal fire, don't you think we would have done so already? Letting it burn underground is a waste; mining it and burning it at a plant at least provides some value. Ideally, we should be able to do both.

Your home UPS may help here (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365463)

Mine reports watt use via a USB link to mfgr-provided software. I run the program on a laptop plugged in elsewhere when I'm measuring.
Not quite as spiffy as a Kill-a-Watt (instantaneous readings only), but still very useful.

The power company is going to owe me money (2, Funny)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365499)

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.

Re:The power company is going to owe me money (1)

reaktor (949798) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365655)

My power bill instantly went down ~$35 a month by switching my entire (very small) house to C.F. bulbs. They are only 15W compared to 60-100W bulbs! You can usually buy a large 3-6 pack of the C.F. bulbs as they are fairly cheap in that sort of a deal.

Re:The power company is going to owe me money (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366559)

I have a Lux meter and a power meter and a test rig and a large assortment of bulbs... The savings from CFL isn't much and the amount of real light they produced isn't what the packages claim and they reduce their light output faster than older bulbs. It appears that the light output is based on their highest intensity point as if the entire bulb produced that (like the incandescent bulbs). Most of the non twist designs put out 1/3 the light on the end as the brightest part of the side and the twisties tend to produce less total light but are more consistent. I started by testing 20 bulbs I got from a local K-mart and grocery store and have since collected a few more. The best so far have been LED or halogen and the worst was ones are CFLs. Good quality long life incancesdents are in the same range as mid tier CFL. CFLs dim rapidly (to being useless based on their stated output in less than 1000 hours) while old bulbs would last 1000 hours at nearly full intensity 50% of the time (and 0% intensity 49.999% of the time)

Re:The power company is going to owe me money (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366843)

So get the twist designs. I found a 25W one I believe from GE that was brighter than the 100W bulbs we had before. I've had some well over two years now, and there is no noticable dim.

Don't buy the cheap crap ones from Home Depot or KMart; get a decent CF bulb.

$90 a year! (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365559)

I can retire at 40!

I have another way of saving electricity (5, Funny)

ODD97 (645414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365607)

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.

Sometimes, the device is not the problem (5, Interesting)

F1Rumors (914638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21365871)

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...

What I'm looking for is... (2, Insightful)

FellowConspirator (882908) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

False economy? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366131)

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 and resources used to make them. Sure there could be distortions but I'd need to see more proof that saving USD90/year of electricity by immediately buying USD400 of stuff is so much better than waiting for your old stuff to actually stop working first or become genuinely inadequate for your needs. The way I read it, USD44 of the savings were achieved just by turning on power management on his machine.

A lot of consumer grade computer equipment stops working within 5 years anyway. So if you're say spending USD400 every 3 years (USD133/year) instead of 5 (USD80/year), where's the bulk of your USD90/year savings going? If you exclude savings from power management to try to get savings from buying that new stuff, then you might be talking about only USD40+/year "savings" which is negated by you spending an extra USD53/year (USD133-USD80) because you are buying stuff more often.

If you have an SUV, switch to a smaller car and you'd save a lot more.

If you want to be more cynical, this story is just more slashvertising that encourages yet more consumerism. "Buy that new LCD monitor", "Buy that new printer", it's good for the environment. Blah blah blah.

I just got one of those... (3, Informative)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Refrigerators & Freezers in the Garage!!!! (3, Informative)

Mike18067 (1189559) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Intelligent motherboards ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21366389)

I wish appliances such as motherboards and monitors could deliver information about Wattage in addition to temperature. That info would be stored near the BIOS and could be read at any time by software (in kW h).

240 volts (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366639)

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. There is also less power loss in the wiring due to the lower average current. While this might only amount to a 2% to 4% overall savings, it is something to consider. Note that the use of a transformer to step the voltage up to 240 from 120 will lose some or all of that savings, so this only works if you and wire the 240 volts up directly.

There are a few problems with this that won't be readily solved unless there is a big market demand for this. One of them is that the way 240 volts arrives to your home in the USA is different than in places like the UK. The USA gets 2 opposite polarities at 120 volts relative to ground that combined have a difference of 240 volts relative to each other. The UK gets 1 polarity of power and a grounded neutral wire. That means things like surge protectors have to be wired differently. So just buying surge protectors from UK will leave you less protected, or in some cases not even work at all. Equipment to handle power distribution and protection with the USA style of 240 volts is hard to find and expensive when you do (usually because it is designed for very large appliances like a 50 amp electric stove, or the whole house). A UPS for this voltage (usually listed as 208 volts because that is what many business offices get since that's the voltage between 2 phases of 3 phase power in the USA) is usually a very large device (3 kVA and up).

It's a chicken and egg problem. The right equipment won't be made unless there is a market. The market won't come about without the right equipment.

There is one advantage of the USA style of 240 volts that neither the 120 volt circuits in the USA nor the 240 volt circuits in Australia an the UK have. This is "balanced power" (an equal but opposite voltage on each wire, relative to ground, and no current on the grounded wire) which greatly reduces the level of hum that can get into audio equipment, especially sensitive sound studio equipment. This can only solve the hum problem for equipment that can use 240 volts (otherwise the hum problem would have to solved using a special balanced 60 volt system that delivers 120 volts).

But we can at least get started despite some of these difficulties. I just wish they would make a 240 volt version of that "Kill A Watt" meter mentioned in the article.

Brother HL2040 (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21366725)

I have a brother HL2040 laser printer, which has been great. The only thing is that when it kicks on to print a page, our incandescent lights dim.

Yes, this is a bit offtopic...

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