Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hidden energy wastes?

I was reading an article about a week ago that mentioned the impacts of leaving computers on at night. Not everyone considers the amount of energy used by idle computers, but it is a considerable source of waste. According to a report published by 1E, a PC power management company, $2.8 billion are wasted every year by 54 million computers that are left on overnight. Common sense would dictate to use the hibernate function, or simply to turn the computer off. Through personal experience I have seen that not many people actually know how much energy is used by electronic products. We must change this lack of awareness. Everyone talks about how wind and solar energy, biofuels, and other technologies will impact energy generation and consumption, but can a few simple energy conservation practices also have a considerable impact?
Grassroots education and awareness has the potential to conserve an important amount of energy, saving money and reducing emissions.
Vampire or parasitic electricity consumption is another loss that few people consider. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, it can account for up to 10% of residential energy use. This vampire consumption refers to the electricity consumed by transformers in adapters. Even though they are turned off, products that have a transformer will draw power when plugged into the grid. This electricity is used to magnetize the core of the transformer, and it happens all the time the product is plugged in. These losses are very small, but they add up because of the amount of electric products in a household and the fact that they are plugged in all the time.
We can have an impact on energy conservation every day, let's generate some awareness on other people. I'll be sure to do it next time my roommate has his laptop, TV, radio and lights all turned on at the same time... while he is cooking in the kitchen.

Sources:
http://www.jcmiras.net/surge/p190.htm
http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/strange_news/offbeat_dpgo_computers_on_at_night_0325092278759
http://www.1e.com/energycampaign/index.aspx
http://standby.lbl.gov/standby.html

3 comments:

Bourgeolitarian said...

I have always wondered about this "vampire" energy consumption from plugged in electronics... especially with computers. I had no idea $2.8 billion dollars is wasted in electricity per year on unoccupied PC's!

One thing I would be interested in knowing is how much potential decrease in the reliability of your computer can be expected in reaction to it continually being turned it on and off?

Windy said...

I agree, this is an extremely important issue that should not be ignored. Federal data centers and other government offices would be a great place to start some kind of initiative to save energy by reducing this "vampire" energy consumption (this would also, as suggested, save a lot of money).

We hear a lot of talk about the next new energy source that will save us from our energy problems, but very little about the small, everyday things that could make a really big impact on a large scale. I guess, as Mark Strama stated in class, that things like energy efficiency aren't "sexy." They don't make headlines--solar, wind, hydrogen and other technologies (although important pieces of the puzzle) are the, shall we say, hotties of the energy world.

Maybe we should start focusing more on things like this instead of thinking about technologies that are still 10-15 years away.

ncristea said...

This is a very important issue because I have wondered how much energy the CPE building wastes since they leave the computers on all night. To me that seems like a waste of energy because no one is supposed to be in the building after midnight. That is at least eight hours worth of energy that could be saved. That may not seem like a lot but over the course of the year that can really add up. This is a serious issue because everyone is looking for ways to make some systems more efficient this would a great way because it would be saving energy.