Turn off those computers at night

Turn off those computers at night

Summary: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently began requiring that government computers not engaged in mission-critical activities be turned off when not in use. While this might not seem like a big deal, a lot of us leave our desktops on, whether for instant access in the morning, sharing devices, running jobs overnight, or simply because we don't think about it.

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TOPICS: CXO, Hardware
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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently began requiring that government computers not engaged in mission-critical activities be turned off when not in use. While this might not seem like a big deal, a lot of us leave our desktops on, whether for instant access in the morning, sharing devices, running jobs overnight, or simply because we don't think about it.

According to a recent Boston Globe article,

The new policy is expected to cut carbon emissions by an amount equal to driving 925 cars or providing electricity to 669 homes for one year.

Nationally, office equipment accounts for up to 10 percent of electricity use in commercial buildings, said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.

He said shutting the equipment off when they're not used could reduce their energy drain by 95 percent. And he said the state could save even more if state colleges and universities and nonexecutive branch agencies joined in.

The policy also bans screensavers and requires that power management features be enabled. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the Commonwealth (or anywhere for that matter), this policy makes sense in schools where teachers and students are necessarily away from their computers during lecture, lunch, recess, etc. The Massachusetts policy doesn't currently apply to schools and universities, but there's no good reason not to implement a similar policy voluntarily, regardless of where we are.

Just applying the rules to 32,000 state computers will save upwards of "$2 million a year and reduce carbon emissions by more than 5,000 tons annually." Seems like a no-brainer in schools where we should be instilling a sense of conservation in our students.

Topics: CXO, Hardware

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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48 comments
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  • Turn off those computers at night

    It's the little things that count.
    jetsethi
    • Wrong.

      The "little things" do NOT 'count'. Not when the big ones are neglected. But your empty-minded repetition of this silly slogan does not encourage attention to the big ones.

      The big ones are transportation and climate control: the latter is particularly neglected. Most people have no idea how much energy they are wasting to run heaters and air-conditioners, since they don't realize how much energy these take to make even small changes in temperature.

      This situation is particularly bad in the South in the US, since modern building architecture relies heavily on air-conditioning to make the building livable: in the old days, they made more effort to capture every cool breeze.

      So, for example, turning off computers at night won't save nearly as much energy as turning off the air-conditioning -- which may buildings do already after hours.
      mejohnsn
  • BIG BIG SAVINGS FOR ...

    replacing desktop computers with energy efficient laptops. For example, average destops consume 500W/H in average, while notebooks consume only tenth of it!

    Don't complain high energy prices! Save it.
    joemartn
    • Laptops cost a lot more than desktops...

      ...for a given level of performance. You might wind up saving on energy costs, but I expect you'll more than use up the savings buying more expensive computers.
      Henrik Moller
    • Even better.....Thin clients

      Thin clients serve a few excellent purposes.<br><br>
      1. 100% solid state, no moving parts so lasts longer, and little if any maintenance.<br><br>
      2. Very energy efficient<br><br>
      3. Data is stored centrally so theft of data is much harder. Unlike laptops people can't just take confidential info out of the work place.<br><br>
      4. All apps are server based so only approved apps can be used and flow of data is strictly controlled.
      devlin_X
    • Where do you get 500 Watts!!!

      I don't know where you get 500 watts - ridiculously high!
      The power supplies may be RATED at 500 watts - but most commercial grade computers and displays will be running less than 200 watts total - speaking from experience with 1000+ stations and power monitoring equipment. Laptops are more efficient - but MUCH higher in original cost, and more likely to break.
      Randy Reimers
      • You're right

        My computer, with the monitor, draws 210 watts while booting and between 150 and 180 while working. Something like video editing may raise that some, but few laptops can edit video.
        don3605
  • RE: Turn off those computers at night

    Sounds like you don't have a clue what you could be using those computers for at night...

    Sure power save the monitor, but keep in mind that those windows updates, anti-virus and malware scans now get done just when you need those cpu cycles the most - when you first logon.

    But you can also have your pc contribute its cycles to lots of nifty projects at night. Not just for yourself but plenty of "net" projects. Look around.
    ridingthewind
  • The partial-solution fallacy

    "Just applying the rules to 32,000 state computers will save upwards of $2 million a year."
    <br><br>
    Oh really? What about the cost of all those people waiting around while their machines boot up two or three times a day? Power cycling a machine reduces its working life--how much is it going to cost to replace those machines more often?
    <br><br>
    Turning computers off at night, for the most part, doesn't save anything. It just moves the costs around.
    Henrik Moller
    • My systems are configured to use power savings.

      My Vista system is configured to sleep after a certain period of time. It resumes quickly (2-3 seconds) by just pressing a key on the keyboard. If I don't wake the computer it will switch to hibernate mode. It takes a little longer to wake (10-15 seconds) but hardly imactive to productivity. I'm not sure why anyone would object to these power saving modes unless they had a specific need for the computer to be "on".
      ye
      • That works, if allowed.

        The problem is that the powers that be want them OFF, and hibernate is not off enough for them. So you could be in violation by using hibernation, even though it saves plenty of energy.
        ajole
        • A PC in Hibernate mode is completely off.

          When a PC enters into hibernation the state of the PC is completely written to the HDD. You can unplug the PC to verify this.

          Now Vista has this really nifty feature called hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep combines Sleep mode and hibernation. How it works is that when the computer starts to go into sleep mode it also writes the state of the PC to the HDD. Then the PC goes to sleep. When the PC is asleep everything is turned off except for around 5 watts of power that is used to keep the state of the PC alive in RAM.

          Now, as long as the PC still has that 5 Watts of power keeping the RAM alive the user can resume from sleep in about 2-5 seconds.

          If there was a power outage and the PC state was lost in RAM then, when the PC next boots up it will resume from hibernate.

          The end result is that no work was lost and little to no power was used when not in use.
          mikefarinha
          • I know that, and you know that, but the guys that make the rules....

            ...will fire you because they said OFF; not hibernated using no power.
            And hibernate sleep is a definite no-no, as when you add up the 5 watts of power for all 25,000 machines (or whatever it is in the state) you get a significant energy use.
            Personally, I'm with you.
            ajole
          • Sorry no

            If you don't have to push the power button to get it back it's not "off". Even 5 watts times 32000 is a bunch of watts - looking at how much power a house uses at night - I can see where that 600 some odd houses per year number comes from. 32000 vampire wall warts at 5 watts each suck a lot of energy. - Your tax dollars at work.
            zclayton2
    • Are you serious?

      "<i>Oh really? What about the cost of all those people waiting around while their machines boot up two or three times a day? Power cycling a machine reduces its working life--how much is it going to cost to replace those machines more often?</i><br><br>The rate of upgrade these days the systems won't fail from power cycling. Also, they aren't turning the systems on and off all day long, only the end of the day. Since its my tax dollars that would be saved I'd like my state to do it as well..... <br><br>Solution to employees waiting for boot up. Most PC's have a Wake On LAN feature. You could program the server(s) to send a signal to the workstations a few mins before the day begins.<br><br>Ah, the convience of network computing.....
      devlin_X
      • Yes, serious, and Rightly So.

        Your thinking is flawed. Sure, these days upgrades are so common that [b]most[/b] machines will not fail before the upgrade, but you forgot the law of large numbers: there [b]will[/b] be many that do fail, and replacing them will cost money. Leaving the computers on but in a low power consumption mode is still the best way to prolong their life.

        Now your LAN feature sounds nice, but I wasn't born yesterday: I know many IT departments will resist allowing this.
        mejohnsn
        • Odd, you don't back it up with facts.....Shocking....

          "<i>Now your LAN feature sounds nice, but I wasn't born yesterday: I know many IT departments will resist allowing this.</i>"<br><br>

          Are you mental? IT's biggest problems would be solved. They'd have control over what software is and isn't allowed on the systems and as stated before with all the work stations being solid state energy consumption would be much lower & repairs would be minuscule. There is little business would dislike about switching back to terminal based networks considering the money, time and liability saved.
          devlin_X
    • Not really...

      "What about the cost of all those people waiting around while their machines boot up two or three times a day?"
      A non-issue. People who are sitting at their desks doing nothing while waiting for their computers to boot up are the same people who will take fifteen minutes to get coffee, chat with co-workers, and so on. Workaholics will fire up their computer and do non-computing tasks in the interim. No significant time is "lost" unless employees literally spend every second of every working day constantly entering data.

      "Power cycling a machine reduces its working life"

      There's no evidence to support this claim.

      "how much is it going to cost to replace those machines more often?"

      Nothing, because they won't be replaced more often. The vast majority of computers are replaced due to performance obsolescence, not due to hardware failures. Probably on a schedule, and in association with a budget.

      Furthermore, shutting off computers reduces their window of exposure to network attacks, power fluctuations, buildup of dust and dirt, and other transient issues.

      "Turning computers off at night, for the most part, doesn't save anything. It just moves the costs around."

      This is simply not true. Significant amounts of electricity are saved not only by reducing the power used by the computers themselves, but also by reducing heat buildup in the building.
      bmerc
    • Power cycling a machine DOES NOT reduce working life

      Are you the guy that continues to perpetuate that ancient myth? I've been trying to track you down for years so I could ask you to please stop saying that. Open the case, look in there; do you see any vacuum tubes? Here is what really happens. Leave the power on and the fans keep spinning, the CPU fan is pushing maybe 50 CFM. A continuous flow of air, (approx. 2.6 million cubic feet annually) and all the particulate goodies it contains. That dust then accumulates in the case mostly on the surface area of the CPU heat sync, reducing its efficiency. The CPU will run a just a little hotter everyday and that will reduce the working life of CPU. The same thing is happening inside the power supply.
      Just in case you were you were thinking of suggesting it, don't, because users will never clean a heat sync. Can you blame them, it's a filthy chore.
      Newtons_Lawyer
  • RE: Turn off those computers at night

    energy drain by 95 percent

    lol what a joke

    energy drain is when you are on solar/batteries etc,
    carbon emmisions - lol - you live in MA? ya home in insane liberals whom want to live in the dark.
    Monosdeja