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Low-power electronics

 
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Staying connected to the Internet is important to many, but that requires electronics.

Besides reducing power consumption, other aspects of computing are polluting to the Earth.

What have you all done to help reduce your electronics footprint (carbon, waste, etc...)?
 
pollinator
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Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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the biggest thing we've done is switched our electricity mains to 100% local wind power generated (I live in the Netherlands it's a windy country)

also parts of the house that have clusters of electronics (think study desk) - all the electronics plug into one 'plug box', making sure it has an on/off switch, so only on if is use. in this respect we're in the process of figuring out how best to switch off electronics that are plugged in all the time but don't need to be on all the time (thinking mainly of our speaker system)

also very much about recycling used/broken electronics and batteries, making sure it is segregated and doesn't just get chucked into the bin and go to landfill
 
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I've been thinking about this too, as I'm in the process of sizing a new off-grid PV system. I'm trying to keep it as small as possible, and so I measured power consumption for my various appliances.

My laptop is using 94W when charging, for 375 WHr/day at 4 hours' usage. My wife's uses less power, but she uses it more, so that's another 520 WHr/day. And the wifi router plus wireless modem use a whopping 267W, or 2133 WHr/day at 8 hours' usage!

I was shocked. A couple of LED lights would use 306 watt-hours/day, and a small Sundanzer fridge (no freezer) 168 (at 90F). So worrying about whether I put the fridge in the kitchen or out on the porch, where it's cooler, is basically pointless. What I need to figure out how to do is save power on the computer stuff.

Has anyone found a less energy-hogging way of connecting to the Internet that doesn't involve a smartphone?
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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I know it's possible. There are these guys in the UK:

http://www.tinygreenpc.com/

I'd love to find someone doing this in the NorthAm market.

They key, of course, is also finding a low-power display to hook in.

 
Andrew Breem
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I, too, wish someone were doing something like that around there. But IMO the display isn't that much of a problem: My wife's 20-whatever-inch flascreen display only draws 28 watts, or 224 WHr/day at her usage. The numbers I posted, though, suggest that at least for me the Internet connection itself is a much bigger deal than the two laptops or the display: 267W! 2133WHr/day! That's more than all the rest of my electricity usage put together, and just for the modem and wifi... Which is crazy.
 
gardener
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For many applications couldn't a smart phone actually be the least energy heavy way to get on and see 80 percent of the content? It does not have to be hooked into a plan since it can run off wifi. Basically a tiny tablet? My phone charges fastest and stays charged the longest of any of my devices.

I guess that still doesn't help the connection side of things.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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When it comes to the networking equipment, a lot depends on how you're linking to the Internet. If you're rural, you usually have few options. Dial-up is super slow. Satellite internet quirky and slow. Some areas have microwave service.

If you're near a highway, you might get 4G or 3G mobile data service. In that case, there are devices that will create a WiFi hot-spot for you.

This device looks pretty good. You can connect a USB 4G/3G modem to it, and it will then act as a WiFi router for all your devices. Power consumption is 13W Max.

http://3gstore.com/product/4136_surf-soho-3g-4g-router.html
 
Andrew Breem
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Smartphone may be the way to go: I have decent 3G service. My only other option is a wireless (not satellite) connection with a dish on the front of the house.

But the wifi router seems to be the real hog. The one I have is using something like 1.66 amps (measured), even though the power supply claims 0.65 amps max. I just tested another, borrowed wifi router, and it is only using 0.06 amps vs. a claimed max of 0.19 amps. So I guess it pays to shop for one that claims low power consumption, buy it somewhere with a good return policy, and test it to make sure the actual performance meets the label claims.

One more wrinkle: Just swapped the power supply from the miserly router onto the hog, and I am now getting miserly performance. So it's not the router itself, but the power supply.

For the record, I really do enjoy spending my time like this, instead of sitting on the beach sipping a mai tai.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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By "power supply", are you referring to an inverter to change DC to AC? Ideally, I'd find electronics that can take a 12V DC input, if you plan to run off of a battery bank (charged by solar PV), instead of converting DC to AC just to have the power supply of the electronic device rectify it back to DC. Conversion losses add up.
 
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Location: Seattle, WA
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For my work laptop, I got rid of my standard second monitor (power draw of about 32W) and switched to a AOC e1659Fwu 16" monitor. It draws power from my USB port and only adds about 6W of draw above the 12W that my laptop already drew.

For my home server, I switched away from my old mini desktop (~60W draw) to a Chromebox M004u which I've installed Linux on to. The draw from that is usually around 15W. I'm not sure on the power consumption from the DSL modem or the router, but I would guess that they are under 10W each. We have a Roku and the TV on a power strip so we can turn them off when not in use, but the combined standby draw of those is around 3W so I don't often bother unless I am going away for an extended time.

We have another laptop that gets used occasionally, but most of our internetting is done from phones or tablets now. More than a few times now I've had to replace cracked screens on these and that saves a lot versus having to buy new devices. My phone is now a 5 year old smart phone that is still ticking. It has been a long time since I really used it as a "smart" device, but for mobile data I can teather my wifi only tablet to it and use that for my on the go computing needs. Not having to upgrade my phone every year is a small part of keeping electronics out of the waste system

To power all this, we have a 3.6kW PV solar system.

 
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