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 Post subject: Building a "Greener" PC
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 4:49 pm 
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Hi all,
I'm attempting to make my general purpose PC a bit "greener." (In other words, less power hungry.) I cobbled it together with spare/salvaged parts and it works quite well, but according to my Kill-O-Watt power meter, it's using about 245 Watts (with folding@home running and nothing else -- I need to shut that off and check consumption then, but I keep forgetting.). At $0.08/kWh it will cost me roughly $10/mo to leave it on 24/7. Of course I could just shut it down, but I honestly forget to or I let it do some transcoding and other processor intensive tasks overnight. Currently this is what's I have:


[edit] I forgot to mention my power supply. Currently it's a 500W Ultra V-Series that is only 70% efficent. I'll be replacing that with a Seasonic S12 II-430 which is 80-plus certified.[/edit]
The RAID 5 is a a backup system for my mythtv mbe (recordings, music, photos & videos) and my desktop/general purpose files.

What I'd like to do is replace the mobo, CPU, RAM and RAID. I've more less decided on the mobo, CPU and RAM. Probably getting a Biostar TF7050-M2 (Info on Silent PC Review regarding the "greenness" of it's little brother, the TF7025-M2. See the "undervolting/power consumption" part.) and an AMD BE-2350 or BE-2400 (45W) with 2 GB of DDR2 800. As far as I can tell this CPU at $90-$100 is the best bang for my buck when it comes to energy efficent CPU's. The mobo has onboard NVIDIA graphics that work under linux and using the IGP is one less card consuming power. How I go about replacing the RAID is where I'm having trouble deciding which way to go.

Scenario A: I buy 2 x Western Digital Caviar GP WD10EACS 1TB hard drives and use them in a software RAID1. The advantage here is fewer drives, less power consumption, less heat and greater future expandability (More open SATA ports). Disadvantage is price ($460 + tax) and less space than scenario B.

Scenario B: I buy 3 x Western Digital Caviar GP WD7500AACS 750GB hard drives and use them in a sofware RAID5. The advantage here is more space (unformatted 1.5TB vs. 1TB) and less cost ($420 + tax). Disadvantage is that 3 drives consume more power and create more heat than 2 and fewer open SATA ports.

Scenario C: Some kind of NAS device, but expandability is limited, cost can be high for what essentially amounts to a computer case with hard drives in it and many run some kind of propietary software. Running another computer with FreeNAS will use more power.

The backup system is a must for me. I have too much blood, sweat and tears invested in colleting all my "stuff" and I don't want to lose it all. My MBE is in my detached garage and the general purpose computer is in the house, so I have copies in (at least) 2 different locations (photos are also backup up with Amazon's S3 service) in case of disaster. Of course if both the house and garage burn to the ground, I'm screwed (photos not withstanding), but I think I'm spreading my risk as much as I possibly can.

So, long story a little longer . . . What would you do?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:06 pm 
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Good to see you're thinking about this. My frontend was built with this in mind.

Quote:
AMD BE-2350 or BE-2400

I can vouch for the BE series. They are great CPU's, and if you are going to underclock further you'll be able to get away with a slower fan using less juice than the stock one, or use BIOS fan control with more leeway.

Quote:
using the IGP is one less card consuming power

Plus you can lose the audio card too, perhaps the USB card?, and probably the MegaRAID card.

Quote:
What would you do?

I'm currently running Scenario C, as my NAS backup device was donated to me for free. It's only on during periods of backup, about twice a week for a couple of hours, plus the drives power down when inactive.

If I didn't have the NAS I'd go Scenario A for the reasons you stated; less power, heat and not to mention noise. The extra cost of $40 will be saved over the next few months with your lower electricity bill, and you'll continue to save.

Other ideas that come to mind are perhaps look at ways to power down the drives when they're inactive and consider going a 2.5" drive for system (don't laugh, they're great power misers).

Regards,
Kirk.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:17 pm 
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Mike

This is good time to open such a discussion regarding efficeincy since the next release of knoppmyth will open up scability with storage groups.

My first thought is look for largest drive that is affordable. WD has some green drives that should be fine and use less power. As the system grows you can scale additional drives with new storage groups. I have a raid 5 setup that I'm going to break up now that 750gb drives are hitting nice price.

I have experimented with Gigabit Athlon 64 micro atx. To me it seems that if you can get away with integrated for video, sound, and nic that helps. Then all you have to do is add a tuner card and you are set.

I have not experimented with low wattage Amd Chip but I would like to but that requires a new board for me. Another thing to think about is how much your going to be using the system for comm flagging and transcoding. Because dual core would help but it may be less efficient.

Power supply I would do just what your doing and get a high quality model that is quiet and efficient.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:22 pm 
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Kirk wrote:
Quote:
using the IGP is one less card consuming power

Plus you can lose the audio card too, perhaps the USB card?, and probably the MegaRAID card.


Exactly my intention.

Kirk wrote:
Quote:
What would you do?

I'm currently running Scenario C, as my NAS backup device was donated to me for free. It's only on during periods of backup, about twice a week for a couple of hours, plus the drives power down when inactive.

I need to see if FreeNAS supports an auto wake up and shutdown options.
Kirk wrote:
If I didn't have the NAS I'd go Scenario A for the reasons you stated; less power, heat and not to mention noise. The extra cost of $40 will be saved over the next few months with your lower electricity bill, and you'll continue to save.

Other ideas that come to mind are perhaps look at ways to power down the drives when they're inactive and consider going a 2.5" drive for system (don't laugh, they're great power misers).

Thanks for your input!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:29 pm 
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RacerX wrote:
This is good time to open such a discussion regarding efficeincy since the next release of knoppmyth will open up scability with storage groups.

The only issue I have with storage groups is that I have to have the computer with that recording powered on in order for it to be available. I'd like to at least have the option to turn it off without affecting my entertainment experience. I have plenty of space available on my MBE which is already on 24/7.

RacerX wrote:
I have not experimented with low wattage Amd Chip but I would like to but that requires a new board for me. Another thing to think about is how much your going to be using the system for comm flagging and transcoding. Because dual core would help but it may be less efficient.

Power supply I would do just what your doing and get a high quality model that is quiet and efficient.


Keep in mind, this is for a general purpose PC and the RAID will be a backup storage solution, not an everyday dumping ground. It's not necessarily going to be running MythTV (although I may install it to do some transcoding/dvd buring.)

Thanks for your input!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:59 am 
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Location: Indiana
I'm in the process of building my Myth HD Frontend with one of the AMD BE-2400 chips and the Asus M2NPV-VM boards. I don't have all the components yet, but I do have it running with some older parts. I don't have the exact numbers at the moment, but with 2GB Ram, 1 Hard Drive and 1 DVD drive the system was drawing about 94 watts while running the F@H smp client. I have all of the specs from the Kill-A-Watt written down at home. In comparison, my old AMD 3200 with 3 hard drives, 2 DVD drives, wireless card, ATI Radeon 9600 was drawing about 180 watts.

I was thinking I might add the Kill-A-Watt readings to the system specs under my Tier-2 posts. I need to test my P4 Backend and my EPIA frontend.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:04 pm 
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mihanson wrote:
Scenario C: Some kind of NAS device, but expandability is limited, cost can be high for what essentially amounts to a computer case with hard drives in it and many run some kind of propietary software. Running another computer with FreeNAS will use more power.


You know what? I think scenario C is actually the best option for both cost-effectiveness and power consumption. I did some research and found that the Western Digital MyBook World is currently a great buy, runs linux and is therfore very hackable. :) In the end I think I can live without the RAID functionality as long as I know everything is at least in 2 places. My /myth partition on my MBE is a software RAID 5, so I have fault protection there plus I can copy it over to the MBWE.

I was able to get my current desktop/general purpose computer down to 165W when idle (killing F@H helped a lot.) Still, I feel with new components I can get it under 100W like cameraready mentioned above.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:51 pm 
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I liked reading this thread as I'm starting to think about making a new frontend/backend system and would like it to be greener too.

I'd like to ask a follow-up question, though: how does one determine how big a power supply to purchase?

I can see that mihanson's rig, with multiple drives, etc., would need a 500W supply. But I'm pretty sure I'm running a 350W PS right now and it is seemingly powering everything fine.

Is there any energy savings in running a smaller power supply? Or is it strictly "overhead" that isn't used unless necessary?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:45 pm 
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Location: Madison, WI
I had a power supply die on me recently. I decided to go with an 80+ model. I believe this is also important when trying to go green (or more green). I'm not sure of the actual power savings (didn't have a chance to measure with my Kill-O-Watt before the old PS died), but I do notice that the exhaust from the new 80+ PS is cooler. So there's definitely less energy lost to heat. This also means less AC required in the summer. All of this is quite important when I'm running this PC 24/7 (this is my desktop PC and not my Mythbox).

Last Sept. I configured my Mythbox to use Mythwelcome with autostart/shutdown. I previously had it running 24/7. Now it's running maybe 30% of the time. This translates into some significant savings too.

The new PS I bought was an Antec. Their site listed http://www.extreme.outervision.com/powercalc.jsp to calculate PS size.

As soon as I can find another deal on another 80+ supply I'll be getting one for my FreeNAS box.

BTW, I'm paying $0.12/KWh for electricity.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:22 pm 
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According to my last utility bill, I pay $0.0788/kWH. My GP/Desktop was pulling 260W. Killing the F@H knocked it down to 165W. Still too high for my tastes. Be sure to take a look at http://lesswatts.org for some linux power savings tips.

My current thinking for my desktop/gp computer has changed quite a bit over the last 48 hrs. Not only did "Scenario C" come out on top as a backup solution, I've decided to take one of my frontend machines (Abit AN-M2HD, BE-2350 and 2 GB DDR2 800) and make it my desktop/gp. I recently bought an Asus T3-M2NC51PV barebone box and I'll be using that as a frontend instead. Once I get it all set up, I'll report back on my power usage.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:21 am 
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I found some undervolting info over on the Silent PC Review forums.

Some linux specific info using PHC can be found here. Some Ubuntu instructions on using PHC are here. There's more to be found with google as well.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:49 pm 
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Ok, so I'm still using all the same specs...

    SuperMicro P4SCE
    P4 2.8GHz CPU
    1 GB DDR400
    1 x 4 port USB PCI addon card
    1 x old Soundblaster audio addon card (mobo has no audio)
    1 x NVIDIA GeForce 6200 PCI video card
    1 x LSI Logic i4 MegaRAID card
    4 x 300 GB Seagate ST3300631A IDE hard drives (used in RAID 5 backup with the MegaRAID card)
    1 x 300 GB Maxtor 6L300R0 IDE hard drive (system & general storage)


EXCEPT, I swapped out the 70% efficent Ultra V-Series 500W power suppy and in it's place is an 80+ certified Antec Earthwatts 380W power supply. What a HUGE difference this makes. As I type this, I'm idling at 103W. Down from 165W with the Ultra power supply. I just fired up folding@home and it went up to 145W. This power supply reduced my consumption by 120W when running folding and 60W when completely idle. It seems that the power supply is probably most important thing to consider when trying to "go green." I'm still going to put in some newer, "greener" components to see if I can lower consumption further.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:10 am 
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Just wanted to add to this thread, which inspired me to update my backend's hardware with more-energy-efficient components.

I had been using an Athlon XP 2400+, a Chaintech 7NIF2 motherboard, two PATA hard drives, a Geforce 6xxx card of some type, and a 350W power supply that came with my Silverstone case. With my tuner cards in place it was running at about 100-110W in idle.

I gutted the case and put in the Biostar TF7025-M2 motherboard you'd referenced (includes on-board Geforce 7xxx video), a low-wattage AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core BE-2350, a Western Digital WD5000AACS 500GB SATA "green" drive (on sale a bit ago at Office Depot for $99), and an Antec EA380 80 PLUS-certified 380W power supply.

Plugging my new setup into the Kill-A-Watt showed idle power consumption to be more like 55-60W instead of 100-110W! Quite a savings.

Now all I have to do is to get the thing actually running KnoppMyth, but that's for another thread...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:35 pm 
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I just saw that Newegg has a wattage calculator as well.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:17 pm 
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mihanson wrote:
I just saw that Newegg has a wattage calculator as well.
Not sure how accurate this is. I put my specs in and it said I need a 550W and it runs fine off a 380 with more hard drives then I put in the options.

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