Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Every light blazing

My late lamented father was a complex chap. Never mean about money but having a few bonnet-bees about certain aspects of the household budget. He was a danger to leave out in a shopping precinct alone on a Saturday morning because he was certain-sure to come back with a device for punching aeration holes in the lawn or a gadget for exercising the calf-muscles. He didn't seem to appreciate that, IF he used the lawn-aerator THEN his calves would get sufficient exercise pushing the thing up and down between the herbaceous borders. Periodically (after he'd seen the monthly bank-statement?) he'd tear through the house switching things off and crying "Every light in the house blazing!" in the hope that his family would rally round and help fight the haemorrhage of kWhs.  I don't think he got much support and things would quieten down after a couple of days - possibly because he decided it wasn't worth the effort. But I'm pretty certain his crusade was not really evidence-driven. In any case he realised that pinching pennies was really quite alien to his sense of self.

In 2012, I had a rather abrupt pay cut as the research money that was supporting me was running out and I was down to one paid day a week. Being time-rich but cash-poor had its advantages and me and Dau.II spent a lot of quality time with her grandparents. It also gave me an inkling of hope for my future in retirement because two old age pensions was way more than I was pulling in for on€-day-a-w€€k. Nevertheless, having but a trickle of money meant that there was no slack in the budget and that is when I stopped drinking. The 2011 data suggested that The Beloved and I might well knock off a couple of bottles of wine a week if we had a glass each with dinner each night. That would be okay if we lived in South Africa where Chardonnay is cheaper than bottled water or in France where they have low taxes on booze pour encourager les viticulteurs. But in Ireland back then, a bottle of Old Red Biddy was at least €5 and two bottles a week was therefore €500 a year. Which was lot for a man on €1,000/mo; so it was farewell to plonk.

I fell to those reflections because we had a morning of post-graduate student presentations and when we all left I noticed that the last presenting student had left the computer on; so I switched it off. As I walked back to my office with one of my colleagues I wondered aloud how much electricity was being wasted by such "someone else will do it" bystander effect.  I know that every Monday last academic year I had a QM quantitative methods class at the very end of the working day. At about 1700hrs we'd all leave and as far as I was concerned all 20 desktop computers would be on-standby for 16 hours until 0900hrs the next day.  A computer in sleep mode is using 25W or about the same as a lightbulb. Not so much you say but 25 * 20 * 16 is 8 kWh which costs, in Ireland about €2. That's a tenner a week or about €500/yr which was doing much less good to me or the planet than €500 worth of wine. I feel a guesstimation exercise coming on for next year's QM class:
  • Is it worth employing someone to switch off all the lights/computers in The Institute at the end of the working day?
And that's just one computer room, there are probably 20 such room-equivalents on campus = 400 there are 400 faculty and support staff, each one with a desktop computer. If half of all the computers are left on all night that's (400 + 400)/2 * 16hrs * 25W = 160kWh each night or €40. Many of my colleagues leave their computers on each night because the boot up takes so long which is a real deficit if you have a 0900 class and want to print out a quiz for 30 students . . . after a forward-planning failure. I used to do the same thing - and piss-and-moan at the inefficiency of it until I spoke to our IT support person. He said that the boot-up delay was because my computer was under RAMmed so he came over in the afternoon and replaced the 4GB chip with an 8GB version: the boot up then took 10 seconds. Moral: just ask - you may be pushing at an open door.  And switch the bloody lights out, of course.

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