A Greener Home Office
Going green is more than just a matter of being environmentally responsible. The biggest attraction to being eco-friendly is saving money. That’s why there was such a big rush to buy Honda's Insight and Toyota's Prius. Despite paying a higher entry fee, by the time you calculate operating costs over time, you're supposed to end up in the black.
In a similar way, we are starting to see a shift within the computer industry (particularly in Europe, where electricity is more expensive), as an increasingly large audience is becoming interested in “green” features. In many ways, we can trace the start of all of this to Shuttle’s XPC. The XPC’s ability to enable full-sized desktop hardware in a compact package really forced enthusiasts to compromise technologies like CrossFire and SLI in order to get that sexy little box's dimensions. The XPC did away with the gratuitous waste typical of so many enthusiast-oriented desktop configurations in the interest of space conservation (even if the components it housed used just as much power as they would in an ATX enclosure).
The industry trends towards smaller, faster, and cheaper. That's never going to change. Still, most of us aren’t interested in migrating to a nettop to save money. We still want all of the performance we come to expect from modern technology; we just want it to run cooler, quieter, and more power-friendly in the process, too.
However, there are other ways for us to reduce our carbon footprint without having to sacrifice performance when we really need. It's a well known fact that most electrical appliances draw at least some power, even when they are turned off. These “energy vampires” are easy targets for silently reducing your energy bill.
There are two ways to go about this. If you’re planning to build an entirely new system, we recently got our hands on Moneual’s Sonamu G100, which is a micro-ATX case that automatically shuts off the power to peripherals when the computer goes into a lower power state. This could help stem unnecessary power consumption from devices that don't need to stay powered-up. There are also a few "smart" power strips available, which perform the same function. If you already have a system built up and want to achieve power savings without disrupting your existing setup, one of those might be a good alternative.
The real question is whether or not it's worth paying a premium upfront for power-friendly devices that promise to pile up the savings over time. Or are these companies just guilting us into spending extra on functionality that should probably be built into true eco-friendly devices in the year 2011?
If you really want to save some electricity and have more fun doing it then build a more efficient PC. These two products are just a little too gimmicky. At least in a PC with efficient components you get less heat (and noise) as well as a lower utility bill. The energy cost to make and distribute these two products will far, far exceed any energy or power savings realized.
Still, it's good to see a different style of review. I'd like to see more in the series (like the GPU energy cost article). I know there are some products out there that can make a difference when it comes to lower energy bills.
- Environmental impact during production of the equipment.
- Environmental impact of storage and transportation to your home.
- Environmental impact once the equipment is taken out of service.
To reduce these effects one must use the equipment for as long as possible, and then possibly re-use it for less demanding tasks.
Personally I use one of those "smart" power strips to kill everything but the 5Vsb line when the computer is off.
It's only a crock to people who have a basic grasp of math or any clue as to what manufacturing a product entails. For the rest of the people, it's an excellent and highly effective advertising strategy because it's an emotional argument and not a logical one. "Our product uses less power and are environmentally friendly." "Don't you want to save the environment?" The sheer number of highly non-environmentally-friendly to manufacture and uneconomical Priuses out on the road will tell you the "green guilt" ad strategy works very, very well.
Using a more efficient PSU or driving a Ford Fiesta instead of a Humvee is perfectly reasonable both for the environment and for the savings provided.
But yes, not all green products are actually green. Not all low fat products are actually low fat, and so on. Are you really surprised?
The interesting thing about PCs and electronics in general is that they are always getting greener for the most part, right - newer generations use less power, produce less heat, and offer greater performance.
I am an enthusiast, so I get that high-powered GPUs and CPU overclocks are not as green, but for the same power output, I have a significant jump in performance vs a machine only a few years old. Wouldn't it stand to reason that if I wanted the same performance, I could get it at less power = GREEN?