How green is my green electronics ? Now with improved threshold detection !

Picture of How green is my green electronics ? Now with improved threshold detection !
Are electronic devices really in a very low power mode when on stand-by ?
Also, how much energy am I wasting for powering devices when not in use ?

I wanted to check it out and decided to build a device capable to detect stand-by mode of my electronic devices and start metering energy used. All this had to be done automatically without my intervention. Metering would start upon entering stand-by and stopped upon exiting.
To do so I needed an energy meter and a current gauge to monitor the current of mains supplied devices and start/stop metering.
For the meter I first looked for silicon, of course. Energy metering is a hot issue with a lot of chip makers and many of them supply cheap solutions.
The project was proceeding when recently I was lucky enough to find two electromechanical meters at a local special trash collecting center (electrical, white goods, furniture).
Actually there should be a plenty of these scrap meters available here as the local electric company is replacing these meters with remotely controlled electronic meters.
I took them along with two VCRs and a printer. The first meter I opened and dismantled to satisfy my inner primary need. The second meter I decided to use in place of the silicon-based one; also, the ready made electromechanical meter solved the calibration issue.
This PopSci contest made me hurry and change priorities in my to-do-list, so here is my design.
Schematic V0.2 is an improved version of the electronic control box over the previous one. I added a potentiometer to set the hysteresis level. This helps discriminate power on vs. stand-by for noisy power supplies like some switchers are. This also helps get firmer metering on/off states.
The schematic shows in red the differences with respect to previuos version.
1-40 of 57Next »
saadsms3 years ago
thank you
adam130135 years ago
How much does it really matter anyway when our clothes dryers, toasters, cook-stoves, ovens, refrigerators, irons, blow dryers, and air conditioners all draw 1 KW or more (mostly more)?
Good instructable on building an AC current meter, though.
green is a red herring. there is nothing green about electronics. I propose a title correction! How energy efficient are my electronics projects?
hellcat265 years ago
 se ve interesante este aporte
mrmarshall16 years ago
all of this for a power meter? a hacked GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet would give you better results. GFCI outlets work by measuring how much energy goes in and how much comes out, when there not the same it trips.
A GFI doesn't actually measure power/energy, so I'm unsure how a hacked GFI could give better results.  A GFI monitors the current flowing through a circuits line ans neutral conductors. When that currents varies by a preset threshold the GFI assume current is flowing through a human to ground, and trips. That is not to say there aren't components that could be salvage from a GFI that could be used to construct a power meter, but the construction of the circuitry to measure current and voltage will end up very similar to how it has been done here.
5Volt (author)  mrmarshall16 years ago
I'm not sure that a GFCI actually measures anything and what your hack could be. Anyways, why don't you post an instructable on the hacked GFCI ?
im working on it all i have to do is design a circut.(my weak side) in the mean time if you have a broken one or just one laying around take it apart.
Visitor8 years ago
Interesting instructable. Where I live one can borrow a device similar to this "kill-a-watt" meter from the city energy department.

I measured the electricity consumption of my entertainment electronics in the state they are when not used.

  • Monitor (off) 0W
  • Computer (off) 3W (always provides electricity to rear panel USB ports, only keyboard and mouse were attached)
  • ADSL (off) 1W (the mechanical switch is between transformer and the device)
  • Stereo (stand-by) 5W
And also the rarely used bedroom VCR draws 3W when in stand-by.

These are all devices that are theoretically needed only for 8 hours max each day (assuming I spend 8h at work and 8h asleep).

During one year these devices would completely _waste_ as much electricity as a 90W incandescent light bulb does when left on for 1 month (likely more, since I don't need to use all of them for 8 hours every day). Luckily they are all connected with extension cords that are very easily accessible so I can unplug them when I don't use them without causing any decrease in the quality of my life.

Not that I consider quality of life a reason to waste electricity...
Not that I consider quality of life a reason to waste electricity..

Exactly -- now think about it (maybe you have, but for others to see realize this).... Let's say there's one computer per person in the United States (theoretically, 300 million). Each will draw at least 3W (that's an assumption) - That's 900000 kilowatts. For one year, that's 7,776,000,000 Kilowatt hours!

For more perspective - that amount of energy is equivalent to 1,102,000,000 pounds of natural gas ASSUMING we can extract that energy with 100% efficiency (actual numbers are significantly lower). So it's like voting, you're small effort does count - especially if you tell someone else what effect it has :)

All of that so we can keep our computers plugged in and off. And yes, there's some large assumptions there - but even if you divided that in half - that's still a HUGE number. And my significant other laughs at me when I say I'd love to live off grid :P

And to finish off my mini rant... did you know about a third of America's engineers are retiring in three years (at least they're ready to). At the moment, the average engineer work load is something like 47.5 hours per week and rising every year. Of engineers surveyed, ~45% said elementary through high schools get a D or an F for prepping for engineering and prepping for engineering v. other carries. And staggering, 60% said D or F compared to other countries (which means any other country). Luckily the university scores were higher - but, it's still a problem that about half of those that begin in engineering washout typically due to unpreparedness.

Problem: Energy
Question: Who's going to work on this problem?

I dare you - ask a kinder gardener to draw a doctor... then a lawyer.... then ask, draw me an engineer. Here's a hint - one child in that class drew something for an engineer -- a person looking at a car with it's hood up but everyone could draw the doctor and the lawyer o.0

/rant (sorry, it's not directed at you - but energy just gets me fired up)
The problem is actually beyond some of the issues (when we're talking about what's referred to as "phantom power") - the problem is really the low cost of energy versus the high quality of life enjoyed as a result of it.

While I would agree that there is a disconnect between people understanding their energy consumption (in terms of dollars and kWh) there's also a problem with the amount of utility people enjoy as a result of that standby power. They *do* enjoy the ability to turn equipment on by remotes, to come home to an HVACed house set at the temperature that they want, to run large energy-inefficient devices and appliances (look at the prevalence of large trucks in the US and other nations for general transport needs).

When people both have more information on what their using and how much its costing, along with more exposure to the prices of delivering the energy they wish to consume, they will be in a position to make informed decisions on their energy usage. We're a long way from that.

You're absolutely right about the disregard for engineering, but engineers themselves are also to share part of the blame. We need to ensure the community understands what we do and where they receive the benefits of our services. A big part of the problem is the lack of face-to-face time with the community engineers have. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants etc all spend a lot of time interacting with the community, Engineers generally do not.

Finally, we need to shift people away from being proud of being innumerate and make it something like illiteracy - something that should not be championed.
5Volt (author)  trebuchet038 years ago
As we are approaching the end of the oil age (someone say we are already there) we must keep in mind that oil is a prime matter for a lot of special materials. Burning it into supercars or using it to keep monitors in stand-by may not look very smart in perspective. Energy gets me fired up too. Ciao
Darn, I forgot to include one link... EE Time's on the State of the Engineer
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Consider this. The site blackle.com (google, except black) saved 225,654.349 Watt hours as of September 29 2007 just by being black. Black uses less power on the old school crts. And thats just one site changing it's color! Be Green! - Buy me an LCD ;-)
The articles that Blackle site to back up their claims are old, especially in terms of the technologies available to date.

I wrote up a small article on Blackle and their claims when they first launched. Additionally, the owners of Blackle egreriously claimed (via emails that were forwarded globally) that Blackle was a Google creation and not an entrepreneurial venture using environmental claims as a cover.

End of the day the values that are being claimed are on experimental data from 10 years ago. These need to be rigorously checked for accuracy - as all science requires.

As noted below LCDs use more power to show black (even if only marginally). LCDs are continually backlit (a good portion of the energy goes here) and the RGB components darkened by applying a voltage across each crystal to be twisted to prevent the light being visible.

More interesting will be the energy savings when OLED based displays are widely available at cost competitive prices. Then dark screens really will have the ability to save energy (and money) - and be more efficient than CRTs into the bargain.

and uses more power on lcds
Actually it uses the same
hm a lcd needs power to darken while a crt uses more to brighten.
Azayles Derin5 years ago
Actually most of the power used by an LCD screen is for the back light (whether it's LED or CCFL). The power used to switch the state of the LCD panel itself is so small as to be negligible (it's in the range if micro amps), so for the most part, the power used is the same, regardless of whether black or white is displayed.
However, many modern monitors are utilising a technology which involves dynamically changing the brightness of the backlight depending on whether a dark scene or a light scene is being displayed. This it to give high brightness to light scenes, while still giving good contrast on dark scenes - an overall better gamma throughput.
This means that for these monitors, dark scenes ultimately use less power.
Yes, but in a desktop application it is being powered by a transformer that is always using the same amount of power. What you said is only true in battery powered devices like laptops.
then how does the power save mode work?
duane534 Derin6 years ago
There's a difference between darkening with the LCD and complete black. Think of the electronic method as the dark lines on an Etch-a-Sketch and the power-save as shaking it.
Isn't that when its off? Its sort of like a car. When its not moving it still burns gas in idle.
Transformers only step up / down current that is being drawn. It still varies.
battle of the penguins! epic...
duane534 Derin6 years ago
True, but comparing a CRT displaying full-on white and an LCD displaying full-black is like comparing a hybrid Suburban SUV to street racing a Prius.
pharoah6 years ago
Somebody needs to change this title, it should be:
How green are my green electronics?

(Wonders why conjugating verbs in one's own language is so tough for people)
5Volt (author)  pharoah6 years ago
pharoah said: Wonders why conjugating verbs in one's own language is so tough for people It may happen when english is not one's own language. Didn't realize that ? Thank you, I cheer it that as a compliment ! Alessandro Genova - Italy
pharoah 5Volt6 years ago
No, honestly I didn't realize you weren't a native speaker because the rest of your instructable is so well written. This has got to be one of the most common errors I hear my fellow Americans making (in 2000, President Bush remarked "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?"). Anyway, I'm sorry that I criticized you. Back when I was preparing for the SAT I saw errors everywhere :).
Punkguyta6 years ago
I would really like to do this, but I want to make a system that is monitored via my computer, or one of my old towers I could set up for collection of the data via serial or something. I know it's possible, I've seen the projects for it, but they are usually only for a single outlet, or to monitor the consumption of one appliance. I want to go to the root of it all and set something up in my breaker panel to monitor each breaker and the power each circuit in my house is consuming, that way I can break it down and see what each electronic/appliance is using per month, but also to see how much we use as a whole all together.
cirano6 years ago
Anyone know where I can lay my hands on a 220V kill-a-watt unit?
eddcole7 years ago
Hi can someone put a parts list and wiring diagram of this please and does anyone know how this can be done electronically
mdgnys eddcole6 years ago
Yeah a simple amp meater should do it but you would have to make the circut yourself.
Derin7 years ago
5Volt,I need immediate help!Can I fit the other Europe plug into the Italian sockets?Quick,the laptop is dying out!
Derin Derin7 years ago
nvm,it does fit,im charging like awesome
5Volt (author)  Derin7 years ago
Wow ! If you really had to rely on my timely help... Sorry, I was trekking in Switzerland and couldn't do any Internet stuff ! Ciao
Derin 5Volt7 years ago
np,great instructable by the way,lol i overacted
Italy is awesome!
but i am not gonna pay to go into Napoli again...:)
1-40 of 57Next »