Thursday, November 15, 2007

Going Green: Cyber-Rain XCI Waters Your Lawn When The Internet Commands It

Going Green: Cyber-Rain XCI Waters Your Lawn When The Internet Commands It

This is something I've been wanting, a sprinkler controller that turns off when it's going to rain based on forecast. Of course, you can provide do a lot more benefit to help fresh water resoruces by putting your $349 to wetlands recovery, though with the droughts in california and the southeast you might save some of your power bill if you don't turn off your sprinklers manually.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New revisions of Playstation 3 and XBOX 360

Both the xbox 360 and the PS3 have received minor updates recently which have reduced their power usage. Both the XBox's PowerPC CPU and the Playstation 3's cell CPU have gotten revisions to their manfacturing process (they were 90nm and are now 65nm).

Jump to the end for the power savings. The tale:

Microsoft has been introducing them in to their maufacturing lines slowly along without any fanfare (why the heck not one has to ask) and not labelling them. People have resorted to internet forums to be able to identify the lot #s and manufacturing lines of the new ones. The basic gist is if you get Lot #736 and up from Team FDOU (on the label with upc on outside of box) you'll likely have a 65nm version. All the variations seems to be getting the new chip though the halo3 version seems to be easiest.

The new 40GB cost reduced version of the PS3 has new 65nm version of the cell processor. There was a fairly well confirmed rumor that this new sku was all 65nm which was later denied by sony even though it was confirmed that it uses less power, and then later undenied. So between the removal of the ps2 hardware chip and the new cpu a lot of power was saved. So not only is this new SKU $100 cheaper you could also save $$$ in electricity (though you get a bluray movie instead of a game, a smaller hard drive, less PS2 compatibility and no media card readers)

Both the xbox and the ps3 still have 90nm versions of their graphics chips. The GPUs won't transition to smaller processes until next year (and xbox will probably go to 55nm since it's an ati chip if I recall correctly) the PS3 GPU is called the RSX but I don't know when it will get a new process technology revision.

PS3 (40GB bought 11/2/07)
Off: 0
Booting: 135-136 (max 144)
Menu (XMB): 139-140
Resistance Fall of Man: Cut scenes: 137-138
Playing first level of RFOM: 144-150 (mostly 147-149, peaked at 155)
RFOM paused: 134
Loading Bluray/Menu: 134-135
play Bluray (SWAT ch 16) 134
30x Fast forward 134
Paused bluray 133
Running Folding @ home* 157
Web page loading sony store page 135-138

Xbox360 (lot 737 team FDOU, 2 inductors)
Off - 2 watts
Xbox live active download 95
booting 102-109
media center paused 100
Playing media center 100-105
loading halo 3 104-106 (max 111)
halo 3 menu 121
halo 3 campaign 126-132 (tsavo highway legendary rally point alpha)
paused 129-131
multiplayer matchmaking 115-116
multiplayer 116-124 (most commonly in range of 116-118)

xbox360 hddvd player
off 0-1 flips back and forth
idle 1
opening 3
booting 4-6
spinning up max 10
idle with disc in 6
playing hd dvd 6

UPDATE 2007-11-13

Old XBox 360 (90nm original motherboard)
Off 1-2
peak measured 162
playing project gotham intro 145

All measurements made with a kill-a-watt

So the 90nm version of PS3 used about 200 watts I'm told, now down to 135ish. So 65 watts saved for a gamer playing 10 hours per week, would be 2762 Watt hours per week and , which isn't much at current electrical rates, but if you factor in air conditioning for have the year (let's say doubling elec. usage) and elec rates for clean energy / building carbon sinks might save 5 bucks a week worth of elec. in the summer if you are a really hard core gamer.

* it uses more power but it helps science and might lead to new advances in protein science which could lead to better ways to make ethanol, or anti cancer drugs, alzheimers research, or technology to reduce power usage (proteins can be catalysts which for you engineers, are like having a special purpose processor that can do a calculation in 1 watt that it would take the CPU all 100 watts to do), if you already leave your PS3 or your computer on, or want to donate 150 watts to science please consider running it! more info at

Monday, November 5, 2007

PG&E purchases 177 megawatts of solar energy from plant to be built in San Luis Obispo - CNET

CNET is reporting that PG&E has entered in to a contract to purchase 177 megawatts of solar thermal power from Ausra who is building a 1 square mile plant in San Luis Obispo CA.

They already buy 533 megawatts from a plant in the mojave. This is the first I've heard of a major power company purchasing a solar contract though clearly it's happening already. PG&E plans to expand this 1 gigawatt in the next 5 years.

If anybody has any data on what PG&E will be paying per kilowatt hour for this I'd love to hear it, because they we can get a more true cost of electricity (taking in to account the extra costs for low co2 emission energy and/or renewable resources)

In North Carolina, the NCGreenpower program enables consumers to add extra money to their power bill to have Duke Energy buy their power from renewable resources. Though adding $20/month to your bill (you choose how much you want to add) probably only shifts a fraction of a homes power usage to renewable, it's a start.

So electrimetricers when you are measuring how much power things use and calculating how much this costs you annually, or you calculating off your current bill, future bills, or future bills that use renewable resources?

Inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE: the linked article in the cnet article says solar thermal currently costs about 13 cents per kilowatt hour. But how much will PG&E be charging consumers?

PG&E links with Ausra for 177 megawatts of solar thermal power | Green Tech blog - CNET "The utility is shooting to get 20 percent or more of its electricity from renewable sources, not including traditional hydroelectric power, by 2010. It currently gets 12 percent of its electricity now from renewables and has contracts that push it up to 18 percent. Most of its renewable energy so far comes from wind and biomass: PG&E right now gets only a little of its power from solar."

Monday, October 29, 2007

is saving a penny worth it?

As a blogger blogging about ways to save a few cents here and there, one has to consider whether it's "worth it" to focus energy on saving small amounts when the resource consumptions issues are so large. I try to at least only focus on areas where the savings are "easy" so that the cost of learning about and implementing the savings are not out weighed by the opportunity cost (I could be outside planting a tree or for really low payback savings things I could instead be riding a bike to generate electricity )

One definitely has to acknowledge that saving a few dollars on electricity is not going to solve global warming, but it's easy to look at the big problems and feel discourage about your ability to impact on a big scale, and we certainly don't want people to learn helplessness (c.f. Martin Seligman who does research that shows if you learn that your actions have no affect it can lead to unhappiness or depression like symptoms and you no longer take action to change the situation even if it's easy Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control)

So, while we are still looking for big ways to help, is it worth it to tackle the little things?

Turning off the lights when you aren't in the room saves a few cents a day (or week if you are using fluorescent or LEDs)
Turning off the water while brushing your teeth

To the average well-to-do american (and by that I mean almost all of us are well-to-do by international standards) the financial reward and or vague hard to quantify environmental reward may not be enough to make it worth our while or hit us in the pocketbooks (which is americanese for "make it worth our while")

However, for all those of you who have ever said "If I had a nickel for every..." think about all those electrons saved in aggregate!

I'm reminded of a book I read once about the history of American Airlines and how their chairman pushed for cost savings, and they saved multi tens of thousands of dollars a year in GAS by going from two olives in their salads to one.

When you are the size of walmart, taking the light out of employee coke machines saves $1 million / year in electricity according to this article:
How Wal-Mart is saving millions with clean tech | Tech news blog - CNET

So if everybody could reduce the amount of lighting electricty they used by a little bit, and turn off the water while brushing their teeth, maybe it'd add up to a number that may not solve anything relative to our GDP but would sound like a big number for most of our wallets, and that'd help motivate us to do the easy and small things to help save resources.

Coming soon power measurement comparisons of the 65nm "falcon" revision of the xbox360 that is silently appearing on shelves now, with the old version.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Inhabitat » GET A TAX CUT FOR GOING GREEN - by Dec 2007!

Inhabitat » GET A TAX CUT FOR GOING GREEN - by Dec 2007!

One could argue that the government is realizing they are going to be the ones to pay for cleaning up from our energy consuming ways and so they are buying your action now at a discount rather than paying for clean up later.

In any case if you're reading this you're probably already interested in "greening" your home so you might as well take advantage of this tax credit before it goes away!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ann Arbor street lights to be replaced with LEDs - Engadget

Ann Arbor street lights to be replaced with LEDs - Engadget: "

Flying over the country deffinitely makes you realize how much light is used to light the outdoors(and thus money and future money to reduce carbon emissions and save the enviroment)

Despite my fervent wish for motion sensors the trend seems to be in switching to LEDs (Though motion sensors would be cheaper and still solve the safety issue -- though I question the $ effectiveness of streetlights everywhere vs. $ spent on police or other safety)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

WD Caviar GP: The "Green" 1 TB Drive | Tom's Hardware

WD Caviar GP: The "Green" 1 TB Drive | Tom's Hardware

Another instance of tech company branding themselves as green. In this case it's not greenwashing, they have added technology to spin the hard drive more slowly when it's not in heavy use. Granted most energy efficient desktops spin down the drive to 0rpm when not in use, but this doesn't always work because windows or some other piece of software might access the drive once a minute. This will also be especially useful for servers that over night still get requests but aren't heavily hit. It won't be huge savings but a little bit on every one of google's rumored 450,000 servers would add up to a lot!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

VMware tool tries new twist on power savings | Underexposed - CNET

VMware tool tries new twist on power savings | Underexposed - CNET

VMWare has virtualization software that lets you move the functions a server is performing to another server. Typically this is done to save money on server hardware (put two lightly used functions on one server) or recently they have been getting in to dynamically moving server instances to spare servers when extra load is needed. However they have taken that to the next step (for the opposite scenario) to save power and shut down unneeded servers by moving their functions to a single server.

Not exactly implementable for the average us consumer, but interesting (to me anyway) nonetheless.

The drawback usually is that the cost of the vmware software to do this, is high enough to make it much easier to just pay for a lot of extra server hardware and a lot of extra power. And really if the cost is that high for the softwrae, that means they are paying lots of programmers to work on this, and those programmers could be working on building solar cells or something like that. Or at least that's how I just ify being cheap and just buying another $500 dell server instead of a $3000 vmware license.

G'Day: Australia to Ban All Plasmas & Some LCDs by 2011? - Gizmodo

G'Day: Australia to Ban All Plasmas & Some LCDs by 2011? - Gizmodo

The government in australia is getting in to the energy reduction game. First england takes on wall warts and other things drawing standby power, then california takes on incandescent bulbs and now asutralia is going after power hungry plasmas and some LCDs.

I'm sure the libertarians think people should be making these decisions, but I think given that the full costs of power doesn't include future environmental clean up costs it's probably a good idea for governements to force consumers hands. Disagree with me in the comments!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mishmash TV show created to judge power consumption - Engadget

Mishmash TV show created to judge power consumption - Engadget

A consortium is getting together to have a standard set of material to play while measuring TV power usage.

A lot of my measurements are just instantaneous measurements. How much was the tv using at the moment I looked at the kill-a-watt. I sometimes will watch for a range that the nubmer is bouncing over and list that range. But really we should be measuring how much power is used to do something. Ie how much power is consumed in toasting a piece of bread or watching a movie. The problem is that we like different movies and different toastiness of bread (to you all you half burned crunchy people out there --> you're weird ;) ) Hence these people's efforts to have a standard measureement set of viedoes. Hopefully it will be reasonably priced and available on DVD/HDDVD/Bluray and not get embroiled in copyright debate. That would expend a lot of unnecessary energy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ecodrive data-logging software - Autoblog

Frankfurt 2007: Fiat/Microsoft announce Ecodrive data-logging software - Autoblog

While it isn't electricity it is in the spirit of quantitating resource consumption to motivate us to reduce our ecological footprint. This takes the toyota announcement of including the "eco" light whenever you are driving with low gas usage, to a new level of data. This system will enable you to log how you are driving and emissions and gas usage to a much higher level. Of course this may only appeal to people that are prone to read electrimetric, and the toyota eco button will probably have a much broader appeal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

220V measurements?

Anybody out there in blog world know where in france to buy an equivalent to the kill-a-watt?

Also, I want to introduce a new poster, "Macgyver" as we call him, who will be posting a few things on how more energy could be saved by more efficient designs.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bright Ideas: Lunar-Resonant Streetlights Only Shine When the Moon Doesn't - Gizmodo

Bright Ideas: Lunar-Resonant Streetlights Only Shine When the Moon Doesn't - Gizmodo

It's just a concept but these streetlights use LEDs to save energy and dim when there's a full moon to save even more energy. Why not take it a step further and keep them almost entirely dimmed unless there's motion?!?

Street lights are a real obvious waste of energy when flying over cities at night or early in the morning. They are put in place to stop crime, right? Well make the criminals walk really really slowly if they don't want light. Plus streetlights ruin viewing of stars!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Go Greener: EVERLED, LED "Fluorescent" Tubes - Gizmodo

Go Greener: EVERLED, LED "Fluorescent" Tubes - Gizmodo: "These EVERLEDs are rated at a 10-year lifespan, compared to the 5-7 year lifespan of their fluorescent counterparts. Plus, the lights require 20% less power, which would be an energy savings of incredible magnitude from a global perspective."

$150 is a lot of cost that's going somewhere (are there big energy consuming semiconductor plants involved that use lots of sulfuric acid and other things? probably)

I suspect the price will come down dramatically in the future, so it's nice to see that there will be drop in replacements so all the existing fixutres can be used.

However, LEDs don't typically need the high voltage that fluorescents do, so all the fixutres that increase the voltage are probably wasting a bit of energy relative to just native LED fixtures.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Toyota to sell a cheaper Prius | Tech news blog - CNET

Toyota to sell a cheaper Prius | Tech news blog - CNET

Toyota is dropping the price on the 2008 price by 5.5% to $20,950 and they are working on a plug in version.

Of course the plug in version is going to massively increase your power bill (more than erase all the savings we've worked on here so far). The plug in hybrid is just shifting the power generation to the power plant which in my case means it'd be a mostly coal powered car :(

Though to be fair if you are in state that is using clean energy this is a nice advantage to have a plug in. Additionally you can make the argument that nuclear and hydroelectric power is available at night and would otherwise be "wasted".

In the end a 5% price drop on a hybrid is a very good thing!
Saving on gas in your car, is like saving a lot of electricity in your house, from a budgetary and environmental perspective.

Friday, June 8, 2007

One button off switches

A post over at gizmodo links to a concept for a one button off switch for your house to turn off all non essential items when you leave the house.

It's just a concept but a good one. Though really it's been around for a long time. I've seen quite a few hotels in Europe and China that have this built in to the hotel rooms. When you enter, you put your key in a slot right next to the door which turns power on to most of the outlets in the room. Something like this

This sort of system should turn off the a/c automatically when you leave too. Normal thermostats can be set to do this based on a schedule but for people with variable leaving time you have to set it to your latest leaving time which isn't ideal. (a 7 day thermostat approximates this)

Also, by turning things off at the outlet you eliminate all the "zombie" power suckers, like wall warts and electronics in standby mode that you can't turn off without unplugging.

Basically it all comes down to making it convenient to turn things off.

Jackson Industries - Product Details - Wireless power point

Jackson Industries - Product Details - Wireless power point

A remote control for power outlets (for Australia)

It's a low cost simple version of the insteon/z-wave/zigbee home automation stuff.
Just click a button and turn off your 240V appliances.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

54 TVs' consumption compared - TV power consumption - CNET reviews

Cnet has power measurements for 54 TVs.

54 TVs' consumption compared - TV power consumption - CNET reviews: "TV power-saving tips"

Bedfan saves energy by localized cooling

As mentioned previously only cooling the area surrounding you saves energy because you aren't cooling your whole house. One product that touts this is the Bed fan for cooling your bed area while you sleep. I'm not sure how well it works but it's nice to see that products are being touted for saving energy by localized cooling.


Bedfan Bed Fan sleep cooler save energy: "We are doing this for several reasons. One is to make it simpler for people to make their purchase without the full payment up front. Once you have fully tuned the Bedfan® to the most efficient setting you should be able to recover your investment in a very short period of time, Some people are able to recover their cost within a month. See our savings table for further explanation."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

home built a/c and other alternatives -- non peak electrical usage

Arwen posted in the comments on "fans & a/c" this cool homemade air conditioner that uses ice as the source of the "cool"

In a similar genre are evaporative cooling devices are called "swamp coolers" and misting devices like "cool zones" (You'll see them at football games spraying a mist of water on the players on the sidelines)

Here are my thoughts:

Indeed those certainly look like they'd keep you cooler than a fan (basically it's using ice as a source of coolness and running the cold via copper piping across the fan so that the air the fan is circulating is cold).

However, where does the ice come from? The cost of the electricity to generate the ice has to be figured in to account. Ice is quite expensive to make or buy, and you lose a fair amount to melting in the cooler and inefficient heat transfer. So while you may have a free source of ice, some power plant somewhere is powering the compressor used to create that ice.

However, on the plus side, very few materials were used to build this "a/c" system so you aren't wasting a buch of resources building a fancy compressor motor for an a/c unit. Also, the ice can be generated at night, when power plants that run all the time (like hydroelectric or nuclear) are producing energy that may not be being used. If you pay your electricity bill on a time dependent basis this can save you a lot of money to shift your electricity use to night time. There are commercial a/c systems that are being built to take advantage of this. They will generate "cool" at night and store it in some form of ice or cold store and then blow air over it during the day. See more at cnet from may 2007 Throwing cold water on energy-hog air conditioners
from 2006 Ice-powered air-conditioner could cut costs

Will all this non peak electricity evaporate as more and more people get time based billing and start using products like this? There's talk of charging plug in hybrid cars at night for the same benefit. Also schemes exist like compressing air in to caves at night and releasing the pressure during the day to generate power (by shifting power from night to day). But the fact of the matter is that most of our power comes from coal and fossil fuels. Which go away whenever they are burned day or night. So if our power plant is one of those, we need to use the most efficient cooling methods rather than shifting the electricity use somewhere else.

Also perhaps the biggest take away point from the instructables is that you are cooling your immediate area, not the whole room. Bingo! That's going to save a huge amount of energy even if the method is slightly inefficient.

What do other people think?
If you don't have night time electricity going to waste that can be used to generate the ice, how efficient is ice creation vs. a home a/c system?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Power measurement of the day - Treadmill

Landice Cardio Trainer L8 (Big treadmill)
off 2 watts
idle 12 - 13
on 46-48 (0.5mph no load)
51-151 (0.5mph 225lb load walking)
113-123 (3mph no load 113-123)
119-457 (225 lb load)
200-209 (6mph 200-209 no load)
220-590 (6mp 225lb load)
518-923 (9mp 225lb load)
342-356 (9mp no load)

It's probably best not to worry about the treadmill though. Knowing most americans you'll end up carrying it up to the attic soon enough. :)

Actually since we are relativistic here, sure not using the treadmill would save energy, but what's the flip side? how much energy is wasted by not using the treadmill? Anybody have power figures on what those crash cart paddles use in hospitals?

Tho on the flip flip side, treadmill might increase your metabolism causing you to eat more food which uses energy resources... gahhh....

Though I feel confident in declaring a victory to.....
The treadmill. Keep it, it's pro environment.


hook up your treadmill as a generator and power your house like this hong kong gym :)

Computer power supplies

jils (who has an excellent software development blog at notes an efficient power supply can make a big difference. By the chiming in with this sort of thing is greatly appreciated. The blog format is not ideal it was just easy way to put stuff the web, but I really hope that people chime in ways of measuring and reducing energy usage, and for evaluating environmental decisions.

One other item of note on quantitating computer power usage, the power supply rating (say 350Watts) is the output number, which means you have to factor in the efficiency rating to determine how much power it will conceivably draw. While most computers don't draw the peak amount, you may be wanting to know this for peak loading if you are sizing a UPS or solar system.

So a 80% efficient 350W power supply can draw 350/.8 = 437.5 watts and a 60% efficient power supply can draw 583 watts. That one component can make a big difference especially if you leave your computer on all the time. Keep in mind that the .2 or .4 "inefficient" part of the power supply all goes to heat which means you have to run your a/c more.

Computer power supply efficiencies are actually variable based on load. So really in the end to know how much power you're drawing you have to measure it.

So like I always say, there's lots of things you can do to reduce your energy usage, but how do we evaluate the choices with our own constrained resources (read: wallet)

Is it better to spend an extra $100 to get a 80% efficient supply or is better to spend an extra $100 to get a lower power processor? The lower power CPUs out today are design to be in a 65 watt (thermal design envelope) meaning that they aren't meant to put out more than that. Generally that applies to a range of processors so the fastest ones will put out 65 watts (which is the same as the amount of power they draw) and the slower lower power ones might be in the high 50s. The regular power processors range from 80 as high as 120 watts (though those are typically workstation or extreme processors which aren't in the same purchase category). So lets say you save 30 watts by going with the low power cpu. For a 350 w power supply the difference between 70% efficient (about average) and 80% efficient is 125 watts.

Score one for the power supply.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

fans and a/c

As it starts to warm up and you think about turning on the a/c try a fan instead.

Patton U2-2003 fan
off 0
peak 314
high 171-176
medium 129-132
low 141-144

E20739 20" box fan 80 watts(starting up)
high 76-77
medium 57
low 42

That's a lot better than 900 watts or more for an air conditioner.
Windchaser PACR9 (SA12059 WA9000-ER) Portable air conditioner 9000BTU 868-906 watts

For those of you with a whole house a/c try opening a window. Greenhouse effect may make it warmer inside than out.

Readers, come to my rescue! Explain to me what the heck the fan setting on my thermostat does. It doesn't seem to do anything best I can tell. Ideally it would just bring in outside air instead of running the compressor, when the outside air is colder than inside, but that doesn't seem to be the case!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Power Measurement of the day: Canon EOS 1Ds

The canon EOS 1Ds is a digital SLR 11 megapixel camera. It has a NiMh battery. However it can also run off a/c. I tested it in this a/c mode.

Just on and not doing anything it uses 1-2 watts.
Holding down the shutter release and shooting continuously it uses 18 watts of power.
The power consumption of writing to the compact flash card or shooting slowly is around 8 watts.

Kitchen related power use

Other than lighting and air conditioning, some of the biggest power users in your house are found in your kitchen (though according to this TVs are going to pass the kitchen up! )

The big items in the kitchen:

Refrigerator -- probably the biggest, new ones are more efficient than old, draws a minimal amount of power all the time, and more when for a while after you open the door to bring temp back down

Dishwasher -- has to heat water to a very high temperature and swish it around

Electric Stove -- has to get very hot :)
A gas stove doesn't use much electricity, but it does use gas (These are profound illuminations of energy use....I know)

Both stove types will incur increased air conditioning use in the summer as well.

The microwave is a more efficient heater because while it has a very high power draw, it takes less time. My theory is that convection ovens are also more efficient than standard because the energy used to run the fun, is probably less than the energy saved by the even distribution of heat and resulting less cook time.

Some measurements I have made around kitchens:
Braun type 4045 coffee grinder 0 139 (setting 3) -- 99-103 (setting 1) 71-73

Delonghi Alfredo XU120 toaster 657 (broil) light toast (1248) 630-640 (broil) 1200 (light toast) .04 kwh used for light toast cycle

Cuisinart KUA-17 kettle 0 1352-1369

samsung MW5370W microwave 0 1306-1320

A good source of appromixate power use is

So while .04 kwh used for light toast is small it's the bigger items in the kitchen that I haven't measured that make most of the difference.

Practical tips:

Run your dish washer on energy saver dry
Buy an efficient refrigerator
Don't leave the refrigerator door open!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

AMD Cool n quiet

A friend of mine (jils) built a home theater pc with the goals of it being quiet and cost effective. Quiet computers are achieved by eliminating fans, which implies having low heat, which means low power.

With AMD CPUs there is a software program called cool n quiet, that will reduce the clock speed of the processor when it's not being used. On intel computers this is generally known as speedstep and doesn't usually require software.

He describes his home theater pc designed for watching HDTV on his 720P LCD rear projection tv like this:

based on an A64 3500+ Winchester CPU So it is not one of the super low-power jobs, but still much cooler than a P4 of that generation.

The Mobo chipset is an Nvidia 6150 with integrated Geforce graphics sharing the onboard RAM.
80 Gig Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 IDE HDD
300 Watt Antec PS
Avermedia analog Tuner Card
Dvico Fusion HD Tuner Card

He reports the following power usage without the software:
All Measurements in Watts. AMD Cool and Quiet NOT Enabled
S3 Standby: 6
Idle: 81-82
High Load: 98 W (720p x.264 Playback inside of the MCE Interface).

With Cool & Quiet software running, the 3500+ clocks down to 1000Mhz and up from there depending on load.

IDLE: 69 Watts
Watching 640px XviD: 69 Watts (no extra CPU needed for viewing).
Load: 720p x.264 MKV: 90-96 Watts

So he saves 12 watts on idle, and a few watts when it's decoding hdtv. Also interesting to note that the system is effectively idling when it's playing a dvd, because the cpu is still fast enough at the lower clock speed so it doesn't need to increase the speed (and thus power)

The intel core 2 duo chips are very cood at power reduction (probably better) but they can be hurt by the chipset taking up a lot of energy.

The AMD chip jils chose was very cheap, and thus also there's implied environmental savings as it probably took less silicon to produce.

Note that letting his computer go to standby (from which windows media center can wake up to record shows) saves a tremendous amount of power and still provides instant on.

He mentions S3 state which is a lower power mode of standby.

Note that screensavers don't save energy! only having your computer turn off your monitor, hard disks or go to standby (best) does! hibernate is even better.

However if you have a AMD computer look in to cool n quiet to reduce your power usage while you are using your computer!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Upcoming topics

Some things I've been meaning to post about:

Another downside of CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) -- They need to be recycled because they contain toxic chemicals, where as incandescents can just be thrown away

Eco-mode indicator in hybrids encourages efficient driving and is moving to all toyota cars in future

high efficiency incandescents from GE

should I be running folding @ home?

how to reduce your computer power usage

discussion of new biofuels (unintended effects, costs of production)

rise of the evaluation of computers based on power efficiency

discussion of the power saving black version of google

Anybody have any other topics to request?

Water use

Electrimetric is about quantifying our resource and energy consumption and using that knowledge to direct our choices for more efficient use of those resources and reduction in energy consumption. The name may imply electricity, but water is a key resource and likely to be "the next oil" as it becomes increasingly scarce.

A product design I saw on inhabitat (a great architecture and design blog that focuses on green and pre fab) is a meter for faucets to see how much water is being used. The theory goes that if are reminded as to how much you are using you will use less. It seems to just be a design/prototype right now but I think it would be great if it becomes a real product.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why standby power is sometimes good

Remember what I was saying that all electricity used costs extra in the summer because of air conditioning? Well in the winter, it costs a bit less (if you have electric heat) and makes a happy sleeping spot for cats! Those DVR cable boxes that never turn off are a favorite nap spot for my sister's cats. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Taming the peripheral drain

So you know all those handy peripherals for your computer? the printer? the monitor? the speakers? they all draw power even when they are in standby mode (some models more than others). One way around this is to use a power strip that senses when your computer is off and shuts off the sockets that your peripherals are plugged in to. It watches the power draw for the socket designated for your computer, and then disconnects power to the other sockets (effectively like you had turned off the switch on the power strip)

Here's an example of a product: (power strip with one monitored socket and 5 switched sockets -- made for uk)

I bought this one from amazon:

You'll want to get a power strip for connecting multiple things to the switched socket or a power strip liberator (1 foot extension cord) for something with a wall wart

UPDATE: here's a power strip for sale in the US

Charge your cell phone while riding your bike

New gadget enables charging your cell phone while you bike!
[via cnet and gizmodo and ...]

While I don't think it's going to solve the energy crisis, every bit counts!
And for the paranoid, you can use your bike as a charger when doomsday hits (or just a regular old 7 day north carolina ice storm or other power outage)

Plus it enables good fitness by encouraging you to bike!

Though in the trend I'm hoping to create let's analyze this a bit.

Say it's $23 (I have no idea what the price will be), in a pure electricity at market rate trade off (say it's $.23 / KWh) you have to save 100 KWh, which given my cell phone charger using 1 watt for about 4 hours to charge, I'd have to charge my phone with the bike 25,000 times to pay it back. Modifiers: (+ plus indicates a reason that makes this product better - indicates reason it's worse environmentally relative to a pure market rate analysis)
+ Electrical market rates aren't high enough to reflect co2 emissions and running out oil in future and so on
+ body gets benefit, thereby reducing health care costs (health care consumes energy and resources)
- if you have to pedal more or ride your bike to charge your phone you are going to eat more (food production uses energy and resources)
- the actual production of a gadget uses resources and energy (plastic, heat for molding, pcbs have toxic chemicals) which probably aren't reflected completely in the sales price

Note that these modifiers are in now way relative in size in priorities (and in fact some are totally unquantifiable and silly) but I think it's good to explore some of the connected effects

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

compact fluorescent lighting

I read somewhere that lighting is 22% of the US electricity usage (I'll see if I can track down the source of that). So it is a big chunk of our energy usage and replacing traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (sometimes referred to as CFLs) is an easy way to reduce your electricity usage.

They screw in to normal light sockets
They use approximately 1/5th the energy
They put out less heat

Light is cooler somewhat greenish
not dimmable
upfront cost more than standard lightbulb
it's best to dispose of them as harzardous waste

Regarding the non-dimmability, I'm told there are now 3 way CFL bulbs as well as dimmable bulbs. They are still quite expensive but given that it's just changes to the ballast, I imagine the costs of the dimmable ones will come down significantly.

Sources for dimmable bulbs¤cy=USD&products_id=1238

Now given that lighting does take up a large amount of energy and replacing light bulbs with CFLs is easy, you may be tempted to ignore the 5 watts your router consumes and and the 10 watts of standby your TV uses. But remember those are on 24 hours a day, and even if all lighting was made more efficient we'd still use way too much electricity!!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hidden cost of electrical consumption measurements

As I mentioned in my previous post on lighting, electrical devices generate heat, and in climates that require air conditioning you incur the cost of the air conditioner electrical usage on top of the electrical usage of the device itself.

For example if you were to take a 100 watt lightbulb. Since very little light escapes the house, we'll make the assumption that all the electricity used by the bulb ends up as heat added to the house (more on this assumption later) To convert watts to BTU/hour you multiple times 3.43 and since we leave the light on for 1 hour, we generated 343 BTUs. Say your AC unit is a 10000 BTU unit (meaning it's rated to cool 10000 BTUs/hour) with an energy efficiency rating (EER) of 8.3 which means your A/C unit uses 1200 watts. For now lets assume with the light bulb on your ac unit is running constantly and maintains a stable 75 degree temperature. 343 BTUs of the 10000 it is cooling are due to the light bulb so 3.4% of the work it is doing is cooling the light bulb. 3.43% of 1200 watts is 41.16 watts for a combined total of bulb and a/c of 141 watts. So with the parameters we chose for the air conditioner, you are paying an extra 41% on top of the amount of power you pay for the light bulb directly.

So if you left that light on 10 hours per day for 100 days in the summer, how much would it cost if you pay $.20 per kilowatt hour? $28.32!

The same calculations are applicable to computers where basically all the electricity is converted to heat. This can be very important when designing datacenters, server rooms and offices, where computers can be on all the time, and the air conditioning becomes a huge factor in the cost. Monitors, TVs, DVD players, all convert most of their power used to heat. Some gets converted to light or sound, but this is still energy that gets converted back to heat when it impacts your walls!

Did I get my math right? Don't agree with my assumptions? Post a comment!

Friday, January 19, 2007


Lighting measurements are fairly straight forward. Most lightbulbs have a wattage rating on them, and typically they use around that amount of electricity. So I won't be measuring a lot of lighting and posting them here. However, I'd like to point out that one of the quickest and easiest ways to save energy around the house is to replace your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents. Granted they cost more up front but most places they pay back from between 6 months to 1.5 years which is way faster than just about anything else "environmental" (other than just using less). Also keep in mind that they can't be used with dimmers. But you can get the same light output (yes they do make really high brightness bulbs) at less than 1/5th the energy usage.

There is another hidden advantage to fluorescents, that saves money, they put out less heat.

According to this article over at cnet, 22 percent of the electricity consumed in the US goes towards lighting. They also note that incandescent bulbs are about 5% efficient (ie 95% of the electrricity gets used gets turned in to heat, with only 5% becoming light), so I believe the dept of energy number is actually bigger, given that many people use air conditioning in the summer, they are having to cool their lighting.

Other TV related measurements

Roku Photobridge HD1000 network media player photo viewer 15-16 16-17 (idle at menu) booting 15 slideshow 17

Scientific Atlanta 8300 hd dvr cable box off 21 watts idle 22-23 peak measured (starting up) 31
Scientific Atlanta 8000HD Explorer (HD DVR cable box) off 29 watts on 30 watts (idle, playing, recording all were 30 watts)

Note that cable boxes and media adapters, are also usually "always on".
DVR cable boxes, because of the 30 minute buffer that lets you go back in time, are always on, even if they aren't recording anything.

Networking gear

A lot of networking gear gets left on permanently and people don't remember that they are paying for that.


Cable Modem 3 watts (Motorola Surfboard SB4200 -- Provided by Time Warner)
Router 5 watts (Netgear FVX538 -- vpn router dual wan)
Switch 5 watts (Netgear GS608 8 port gigabit ethernet switch -- measured with 1 link, 4 watts with no links)