Are computers bad for the planet? As a consumer of power, IT equipment is certainly all too visible, and is shaping up to become a prime whipping boy for governments striving to get a lid on their CO2 emissions. After anything that burns petrol, PCs, chargers and that arch eco-criminal, standby mode, now come pretty close to the …
They never recall the carbon footpriont of making the stuff.
I have an old laptop, which works well.
It has one oif those Japanese-standard power connectors. OK, the replacement "universal" PSUs come with an adaptor tip that matches.
But if you want a new adaptor tip, after somebody does something silly like treading on the end of a lead, you have to buy a whole new PSU.
That's buggered my carbon footprint.
Zero Watt Standby?
Surely any zero Watt standby device relies on an electric charge stored while operating in non-standby mode so this is just a transfer of electricity consumption from standby to operational mode. Here we are talking about using large capacitors, an order of magnitude or so larger than those needed for smoothing in any normal power supply, so there is a true extra cost in charging such a device. Plus the environmental cost of manufacturing the capacitor and associated circuitry in the first place.
There is also the argument that it would be more efficient for power companies to meet a constant demand rather than one that fluctuates as devices go into and out of standby. So perhaps devices that draw the same power whether on or off would be more environmentally friendly?
Whither energy savings?
All these energy saving initiatives have to come from somewhere, right? And at what energy/ecological costs themselves? What costs will creating capacitors to allow zero energy consumption in standby mode involve, for example?
Like a lot of "save the planet" iniatives, it's that old magical sleight of hand - misdirection in play. Hey! Look! Your laptop's power supply is leaking power (ignore the fact that it's only half a watt) - and also ignore the fact that virtually every shop you go by in any high street is burning hundreds of the watts every night by leaving their window lights on...
Slightly off-topic here, but still relevant: "Hey, don't throw your empty cornflakes packet away - recycle it! Don't overpackage things!" Meanwhile in the office, your coffee machine has a neat vending system whereby you can choose which type of coffee/tea you want by inserting a cleverly engineered plastic widget and both it, and the cardboard box it came in, is thrown in the trash.
Finally - the old "tax the petrol - that'll reduce carbon emissions" trick. But let's build more runways and airport terminii!
I'm sorry, I got a little carried away there - but you get my drift, I hope.
Mine's the one lying on the soap box.
Power consumption CRT vs LCD?
Can someone point me in the direction of the figures showing that CRT screens consume less power than LCD? I am surprised, given that CRTs need hefty voltages in order to liberate the electrons from the cathode, and then steer them across the screen.
Is it to do with the backlight necessary on an LCD? Presumably the phosphor screen on the CRT glows without any further electrical input, whereas LCDs need a fairly hefty light source in addition to the "trigger" current that turns each pixel on or off.
Networking missing that green tinge
The other always on but doing nothing device is the computer network. Ethernet switches run 24x7 at full power, even for the 50% of the time the office is unoccupied.
IT can reduce carbon footprint of other industries
When will people start championing downloading of information as a green alternative. I'm pretty sure the electricty used to download a film or album is substantially less than creating the cd or dvd and associated packaging, delivering to a shop and then getting from the shop to my place.
One watt Standby?
OK, 60 million TV's, times 1 watt = 60 megawatts.
Enough to power a city. Hardly energy saving.
Abolish standby completely or introduce capacitive standby.
Surely the problem isn't in the use,
but the chemicals and power used in production and the fact we change computer gear far more often than just about anything (except mobile phones)?
Oh, split me an atom
Remote working is the answer, and you will need a computer for that.
Go after the cars, the buses, the trains and the lorries, if you must, but computer equipment has an exceptionally good power to wealth creation ratio.
And yes this is a smoke screen, there are so many more problems that are worthy of attention, well over and beyond the humble computer's power usage.
There should be some name(s) associated with these government initiatives, and we should all be able to look into those people's power usage, and 'carbon footprint'. Here's me thinking we were all carbon based lifeforms, now carbon is bad seems to make some perverse sense.
Wasn't there some guy jetting round the world, lecturing on global warming, how on earth is anyone meant to take these hypocrites seriously with the amount of hot air they themselves spout.
FFT ("False Finishing Touch")
These suggestions to address the trivial are exceedingly dangerous. I call this sort of idiocy the 'False Finishing Touch'. Once you understand it, you'll see it everywhere...
It is exactly like someone putting a large 'coffee-can' tail-pipe on a clapped out Honda. It is exactly like someone purchasing expensive oxygen-free speaker cables for their modestly-priced home theater. It is exactly like someone suggesting that we need to fix the smallest end of the energy inefficiency spectrum while the larger end waits for funding - oh, sorry; that's this one.
Such idiotic nonsense wastes money (a very good measure of impacting the environment), diverts attention from issues with many more significant figures, and is a major disservice to humanity and the environment.
But it's not like I have strong feelings about it or anything...
Even less is used...
... if you have a thermostat. Things on standby emit a little heat very efficiently, so you don't use so much of your central heating. You may even be saving!! In this country, anyway, the heating is on most of the year. Of course you could save much more by turning the thermo down by a half degree.
Yes, in aggregate 1-watt standby is pretty bad. The point is, in aggregate a lot of other things are both a) worse, _AND_ b) potentially easier to sort out*. And, as intimated, the carbon footprint of zero-watt standby production may be higher.
> although brightness setting will have some effect
More than you'd think. We measured one of the 24" 1080p Dell LCDs we have at work the other day, and it varied from about 35 watts on the lowest brightness setting (practically unusable), to about 55 (optimum) and 80 (highest brightness).
> Plasma displays, however, can tip the scales at anything up to 500-600 watts
Only if they're really (REALLY) big. I have a 42" Panasonic, and it measures about 150 to 250 watts, depending on what it's showing (unlike an LCD a plasma will use less power to show an all black screen than it does to show an all white one).
Amen, brother. I would prefer not to have a bunch of bureaucrats telling me what I'm allowed to spend my energy on. I'm paying for it. If I can't use a patio heater, what's next? I can't have a good sound system? Can't have SLI video cards?
Get your damned hands off of my personal life.
I may live in the USA, the tasing capital of the world, but at least we're still allowed to be warm on our porches.
Where does this stop?
Not completely wasted
For instance, in the States, in many areas now the cost for heating using electricity vs. oil is nearly the same.
Thus, during "heating season", that "waste heat" isn't waste heat at all, but perfectly usable building heat and no cheaper or more expensive. This does affect the cooling load during summers; but the point is that 100% savings of "waste heat" is not a 100% energy savings. Depending on latitude, the savings might only be 20-40% or less in the Great White North.
Sounds like this "Dr Reger" has failed to take this into account, along with the Brussels energy wastage going after trivial sources of putative waste, vast amounts of energy "wasted" to print regulations, lost opportunities due to expending brainpower to 'save' energy in existing product classes vs. creating new technologies, potential increases in embodied energy to make a new "lower standby" product,.... the mind veritably boggles at the simple minded sound bite attitude of the bureaucrats.....
well, another argument not to use Vista
The increased hardware demands of Vista are making it look more and more of an SUV.
Don't preach against the new religion
The big problem with the cheap wall warts is their power factor is so bad that while it may be burning a half watt, its abusing the grid as if it was a 5 watt device. CFLs are another example of a device that is bad for the grid but better for your power bill at least until they reach critical mass and the meters get fixed to measure their real energy consumption.
And my personal favorite
We (the governement) are going to ban edison bulbs to save electricity.
BTW we (the governement) are going to phase out analogue TV so you need to buy a box (electrikally powered no less) if want to use your perfectly good existing CRT, or go out a buy a new one - you want what ?!?!? - A CRT with a digital tuner (snigger snigger chortle snigger ) ?
What about this loverly plasma or lcd jobbie (nah its not a penis extension unless its at least 50"), built in tuner, component digital input, gold connections, better pictures, and ... continue sales pitch here
Think of the penguins !
at least Class A amps are safe
Not enough of them out there to feature on the "evil" list. Continuous power draw of a few hundred watts... and they sound better warm so the advice is generally to leave them turned on.
Now where's the Krell icon?
Do not limit the 1W discussion to IT.
At night it is all the standby stuff that lights my house: the microwave with lcd clock, the stereo, the tv-video-dvd standby for responding to remote control, the speakers, the radio, the wireless mouse -keyboard-network-headphones, the monitor, the washing machine, the printer, the laptop power supply.
Add it up and it matches lighting a room 24/7 in each house.
Next thing your toiletpaper will be stanby to warm your *ss.
More expensive electricity
Put the price of power up, and give people the information to make their own decisions on what to buy/switch off.
Incidentally, with modern temperature tolerant equipment, why do UK server rooms *need* aircon? Just open the doors and let the wind blow through?
the benefits of an MSc in Envronmental Protection...
... have continued to cause me untold pain as I watch the entire globe hunding for a way to reduce by a needle, the haystack of abuse that the environment currently endures. As a society we are still being deceived on a massive scale by the government that we rely on to represent our best interests. Let me explain (I'll try to be brief).
1: Globally, domestic power requirements are less than those of business. In the UK, despite the wholescale rape of our manufacturing industries, domestic requirements are still a small fraction of national requirements. To concentrate on energy savings in the home is to detract from the environmental abuse that business and industry rely on in order to make sufficient profits to reward their investors.
2: The environment cannot be considered in isolated pockets such as "CO2 emissions", "landfill", "Unclear Power" etc... each aspect has an associate feedback effect, sometimes positive, sometimes negative... NEVER investigated. The push to introduce new technologies upon a stagnating economy can only result in more waste... as byproducts of the processes of production, packaging, of distribution, advertising... not to mention the disposal of the older technology that it has replaced.
3: On the CO2 front. Kindly remember that if you add together every molecule of CO2 that could be attributed to man's existance on the planet in the past 6000 years (so the literalist Christians can join us too) you will amass a volume less than the carbon dioxide estaimated to have been released in a single "Krakatoa"
4: ... 10: will be available in the photo filled glossy latest edition of my new book, single-side printed on virgin bleached paper, bound in the hides of immature dolphins, titled "How to completely Screw the Economy, fill your Pockets with other peoples Money, turn your Population into Raw Materials and get away with Murder: an observation of UK Government practices since Margaret Thatcher entered politics".
Not even as much as that
"Power wasted by a typical notebook computer or monitor is approximately 12 Wh per day, which Dr Reger estimates would amount to 12.74 kWh per year ... A similar saving could be made by simply using one 100 watt light bulb for 30 minutes less every day"
If my maths is right, the actual usage is only a fraction of that:
(a) 12 / 1000 * 365.24 = 4.38 kWh per year
(b) 12 Wh is the same as 7.2 minutes of a 100W light bulb (7.2/60 * 100 = 12)
Zero watt standby does consume less energy overall than active standby. Even though you need to charge the capacitor, once it's charged (1 second or so), it's charged. Finito. No more juice needed. So if the device sits on standby for 14 hours, it's consuming Z-E-R-O watts. Whereas it's active equivalent is still chewing away at x hundred (or thousand) milliWatts.
True, capacitor manufacture does involve a bit more energy - but seriousy, how much?
And granted, in the grand scheme of things this is a veritable drop in the primordial soup, compared with 100W incandescent bulbs (sss, sign of the cross).
Paris, 'cos she went green by sharing accommodation with several thousand other inmates for a bit.
If your heatings on then it aint wasted
In the UK for all but a couple of months the power used by a PC supplements any heating.
Air conditioning raises the temperature of the environment and in some cities raises the temperature externally to the maximum cooling available - thus making itself completely useless.
So if your PC is wasting power - turn it off and go outside!
As for disposal - most PC eqpt I see disposed of is functional but it wont run the latest version of Windows. Stick an alternative OS on it and it no longer needs disposing of.
The gas 'standby'...
The gas 'standby' equivalent - the pilot light - uses a bit more than 1W.
The pilot light on my boiler burns around half a cubic foot of gas an hour at 39MJ/m^3. That works out at 150W. On top of that, an extractor fan is running continuously to exhaust the CO2 it produces.
"As for disposal - most PC eqpt I see disposed of is functional but it wont run the latest version of Windows. Stick an alternative OS on it and it no longer needs disposing of."
Is your mind aware of what your fingers are typing?
@Rich Re: More expensive electricity
Because more than temperature control is required in a server room - the aircon is a closed, filtered system to keep dust levels down, as well as the temperature and humidity right.
Also, you're probably underestimating the amount of heat that's produced by racks of servers - if the air con fails, the room is likely to heat at a rate of a degree every minute or so.
I've seen aircon failures lead to Sahara-like temperatures with servers crashing all over within 10-15 minutes.
Fiddling while Rome burns
It's about time the eco-warriors came clean about Standby Cost and put that into true perspective.
The illusion that we can save the planet by making minuscule savings is ultimately a nonsense. It's like trying to save the rain forest by using one less sheet per bog roll, insignificant compared to other waste.
But I don't have to care anyway - I've fully embraced the nonsense of Carbon Offsetting. When the living room light bulb expired I didn't replace it for two days and watched TV in the dark. I now have enough Carbon Credit to leave everything in the house on standby for a couple of years.
I also now take one grain of rice out of every meal and put it back in the bag ( prior to cooking ). Eventually I will single-handedly overcome world hunger.
Paris : Who wouldn't just lie back and take it.
The wonder of SI units.
"Power wasted by a typical notebook computer or monitor is approximately 12 Wh per day, which Dr Reger estimates would amount to 12.74 kWh per year, worth approximately €1.27."
Am I the only who initially got confused by the notion of Watt-hours per day and kilowatt-hours per year?
Yes, I'm well aware (on further reflection) these are valid rate measurements, but as a piece of language they're pretty difficult to get your head round.
Why can't these scientists stick to something a bit less mind-bending -- joules, perhaps? Or if you want to lock into the other great fad of our age (diet) -- calories?
More dim ideas from dim bulbs. If we could turn off Brussels and the soon -to-arrive jackbooted thugs of the EU, there would be enough energy freed up to energise my flux capacitor allowing us all to escape these mindless beaurocratic wankers!
Why such a to-do over a myth?
Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming has been disproved time and time again. The IPCC's predictions do not match reality (and are selective at best) and thus fail the most basic scientific criteria. AGW is just religious-dogma bandied about by self-serving bodies and an excuse for governments to raise taxes. AGW is not real. it is a myth!
Oil will run out - yes, we need new technology.
Pollution is bad - yes, we should be as clean as we can.
Recycling is good - in most cases, yes (see the two points above).
These have NOTHING to do with the AGW falsehood. Time the IPCC were torn down and made to go do something useful, like sweep the streets.
Efficieny is one thing...
It all seems a little pointless without a major focus on where the energy comes from, switch to hydro, the only major source of renewables at the moment if you ask me, it's generally cheaper than usual & then just stop leaving things on standby! Sorry, just switched myself & realised I save £200 & 2.1 tonnes of CO2 a year, with a computer & monitor running most of the time, makes me feel a lot better about it all.
Big love to you all,
Plasma and a meter
Years ago I bought a meter to help me document where the electricity in my home was being used. Brilliant little widget, debunked all sorts of erroneous energy common wisdoms.
My 50" plasma (chuckle to the extension comment above) uses an average of 300 watts.
My 42" lcd uses an average of 200 watts.
Plasma ain't the big bad wolf lcd salesmen would have you believe.
Further, when its -27°C outside there is no waste heat, period. I am tempted to run a "fireplace video" on it on those wickedly cold days !
I already have zero-watt standby on all my living-room gear: TV, two lamps, a VCR, PVR, DVD player, amp, CD player, cassette deck (!), network music player, games console and various chargers. It's a switch on the wall.
Jeffypooh nailed it
A pity that a later poster called him "Jeffypoof", but I don't think it was intentional. Anyway, the "false finishing touch" idea is exactly what I needed to describe how I feel about this stuff.
Sure, we need to do something about power consumption - but it's hard to make a case for a plasma TV witch hunt when I'm going home late at night past endless empty offices and shops burning enough candlepower to be seen from space.
Politicians' priorities scrambled as usual
Before getting heated about zero-watt standby, perhaps the EU would like to consider the energy cost of their monthly travelling circus, moving the entire parliament (300MEPs, thousands of trunks of papers) from Brussels to Strasbourg and back 12 times a year.
Of course that's *politically* sensitive, and so *much* more important than saving the planet.
May I suggest people add themselves to the 1.25m who have signed the One Seat petition, at http://www.oneseat.eu/
It's one of these horses everyone can leap on so it looks like they care about/are doing something about the environment, when in truth as Slaine mentions (in greater detail in fact) there are much broader and more effective measures that need to be looked into. Businesses are the area that really need to be focussed on, given that they massively outweigh domestic power requirements.
As for a direct example of power output, let's look at the figures as an example in my particular case.
My LCD TV reportedly draws 138Wh when in use and 0.4Wh in standby mode. I would estimate that I use it for at least 2 hours a day, so one whole week of standby mode uses only 62 Watts of power.....less than a half-hour of normal usage.
Perhaps the government/legislators would waste less of everyone's time and money if they persuaded people to get away from the TV more often? By getting me away from my TV set for one hour a week, they save over twice the energy that they would by persuading me to leave my TV off standby.
The whole thing just looks like a smokescreen to avoid the bigger picture.
Zero power standby...
Long ago in a galaxy far far away (well, not really that far!) a company called Apple Computer used a small battery to allow the power-on button on the keyboard to function. On other machines, they actually had a device called an on-off switch that switched on and off (the horror) the mains. Now we have the new ATX power supplies used in many PC's that have a standby voltage generated that is there to turn on the rest of the power supply. In fact if you want to turn on one of these, you need to add a jumper from the standby lead to the power-on lead to make it work outside of a computer environment.
All in all, charging a capacitor makes lots of sense. The biggest problem: What to do if it isn't charged?
Other standby follies: I had a nice large Sony TV set. Its "standby" power was used to power the remote control stuff enabling it to power on. On several occasions, my locally supplied power went from normal (120volts) to "mood lighting" (about 70 volts, long story). When this happened, the standby supply couldn't do its trick, but I could press the power button on the TV set. Then with lots of straining, the TV would come on and actually function. I suspect that the normal power supply (actually a large resistor from the mains (line) voltage) just fed a regulator, and the design was such that it worked. Those days (about 5 of them, I guess) all the street lights were out (they were arc lights that couldn't strike), but the Christmas lights were all at "low intensity", and it was an eeerie feeling (as I said mood lighting). I can only surmise that we emitted less CO2 that day.
Hear hear! One slight problem, yer petition's a waste of time and effort. The politicians of the EU have shown time and again that they regard their citizens as a tedious irrelevance who don't really understand what they're talking about. The petition will only serve to confirm to dispel any lingering doubts that this viewpoint is correct ('cos they *have* to go to Strasbourg and the fact that you're wingeing about it just proves you don't understand the "bigger picture", that's why.)
I'd suggest that rising up en masse and burning the whole edifice down is the only way to go, but I can't be arsed to offset the carbon emissions that this would generate....
Zero Watt Sunday
Instead of Zero Watt Standby I read Zero Watt Sunday, and why not? Switch off all the power stations every Sunday.
This reminds me of an article I read...
... a while ago. I was researching power consumption for my PC/TV/stereo etc to find out the truth around all the hype. The guy who wrote the article made one point that stuck a chord with me. His point was simple: the 'war' on wasted energy is more akin to a puritanical war on luxury. The puritan viewpoint has always been that things we enjoy are inherently bad, but things we hate are inherently good. A bit like "chips are bad for you, but sprouts are good".
Computers, planes, cars, consoles, TVs and stereos are luxuries, so they are targetted. They are fun, so they must be inherently bad. There's no war against people needlessly ironing underpants or making roast dinners in an electric oven. This is because ironing and cooking are chores, and because we don't like them, they must be inherently good.
It's an attitude that's indoctrinated in Christianity, and that's why common sense can never win.
You want crazy?
Hows this for a waste of energy:
I'm sat in a room right now with a large radiator that can't be turned off individually, its linked with about 20 others.
In this room with me and the radiator are 3 PCs, 3 Servers, Printer, 3 UPS of varying sizes. Most of this is turned off.
Of course to keep all this cool we have aircon.
Tell me again how the standby usage of all this kit is such a waste of energy.
@ Stephen Matthews
That's why modern gas appliances have electronic ignition.
I used to work for one of the UK's leading suppliers of ignition controllers and I learned this: it's actually cheaper and simpler to build a boiler with electronic ignition, than using a pilot burner, because the special thermocouple-operated gas valve used for flame failure detection is so expensive. An ignition sequence controller already includes its own flame failure detector (in fact, it does better, since it will automatically attempt to re-light the burner if the flame blows out), based on the simple idea that a flame conducts electricity (Well, it would, wouldn't it? Fire is a chemical reaction, chemical reactions contain charged particles in motion, and charged particles in motion can carry a current) and just needs a simple solenoid valve without the super-sensitive permanent-magnet-assisted holding coil and priming knob. Build in an electronic thermostat in place of a mechanical one, and there is even more of a saving to be made.
Back in the days when they would make both a pilot and an electronic version of what was otherwise the same boiler, though, guess which one would cost you more to buy from the gas showrooms?
It's just a pity that the same piece of legislation that effectively banned permanent pilots on new appliances also made it illegal to replace a 60% efficient boiler with a 70% efficient boiler. Now, more energy is going to end up being wasted as people wait longer to replace inefficient appliances.
'Wooh! Big Number' syndrome
...is the underlying fallacy which begets the 'false finishing touch' (spot on there, mate). It's as easy as 1-2-3:
1) Pick a small number:
a) one watt
b) the weight of a plastic bag
c) the ink used in printing a copy of The Independent
2) Multiply it by:
a) 60 million (if you're a UK citizen)
b) 250 million (if you're a US citizen)
c) 6 billion (if we're all, like, global citizens, man)
3) Marvel at what a big number you now have! (NB. Avoid at all costs trying to get an idea of the truly big numbers which you should be comparing it to).
CRT vs TFT
It is clear that CRTs consume way more power than comparable size TFTs..
So, why do the new TFT sets consume more than old CRTS? SIZE. If you double the size, you cuadruple the surface.. and there it is...more power requirements.
A good researcher would mention the SIZE as a problem, not TFT technology, because TFT technology is more efficient even using CCFL backlight, and even more using the new led backlight units.
Same Woolly Logic Gave Us Low Energy Light-bulb Crusade
Technical ignorance is rarely a check on eco-campaigners in full cry. The same people are foisting Low Enrgy Lightbulbs onto a (cold) Northern European population where any savings will be miniscule. We will however be just able to read of the triumph in the shimmering, eerie glow of a 15W neon lamp.
Can we have a "False Finishing Touch" icon please?
As I think Jeffypooh's analogy is indeed just the ticket and relevant to a lot of Reg articles.
Perhaps a J-Reg 1.3 Honda Civic with a huge exhaust, as he suggested?
If you cared about power consumption
You wouldn't iron your clothes.
If you want to get serious as a govt. introduce communal cooking facilities in urban areas. Home cooking is seriously wasteful.
Stop TV transmission at midnight-6am.
Make public transport near free, including trains & the underground.
Quadruple the price of petrol.
Force shops to turn off lights when closed (my local TkMaxx is 3 floors of Xmas tree at night)
Turn off every other street light.
Anything else, like fiddling around with PSUs, is just pissing about.
As Usuall only half the story is told
and what about the RF-Emissions that all this IT gear produces.
I see that no-one bothers to take into account the damage to the population or wildlife that RFI / ELECTROSMOG is causing.
So i predict that in 20 years we will be all walking about in the latest fashionable RFI sheilded clothing, wearing RFI proof netting over our heads(like beekeepers).
or, that all mobile comunications devices will be banned and there will be no masts to blot the skyline of our schools and housing estates.
either way the NHS will haveimploded with the shear weight of the population suffering from numerous diverse medical symptoms which can all be sourced back to 1980 as the date it all started.(1st phone towers went up).
i personally long for the day that all crackberry addicts get thier just deserts, what flavour of cancer or other RF induced permanent disability would you like, doesnt really matter, you can expect a very long-very painfull drawn out existance(welcome to the club).
The government has no intention in furthering research or preventing whats coming, as the current status quo keeps the chavs in jobs(selling and using mobiles) the industry generates billions of $$$.
They dont need to bother wasting money on finding out why the bees all die off(RFI/Electrosmog), as they can just import more from austrailia, as the US is doing.(for now!)
It makes money from taxes, keeps the economy ticking over nicely, and they dont have to worry about the pensions issue looming, as most people will be killed off by the side effects of RFI before they reach pensionable age, and since there are so many towers next to OAP homes, it will simply speed up the attrition rate.
Win-Win all round to the government, lose-lose to the general population who are and will be missled by bad science funded and distorted by the vested interests of the multi-trillion pound mobile phone business.(ciggy anyone!)
mines the crinkly silver one with the burnt edges......