How the new Mac Pro will save me $2,000 in energy costs

by Philip Rothman on April 17, 2014 · 10 comments

in Opinion

Last month, when I opened my electricity bill, I was modestly surprised by the lower than average amount due. I didn’t give it too much thought; after all, energy prices and usage fluctuate. I paid the charges and went about my day.

Today, though, when looking at this month’s bill I did a double-take. The bill was lower than it had ever been.

In our old building on New York’s Upper West Side, heat and and hot water are provided by the building’s boiler, so those charges would not have affected the electricity bill. The only items powered by electricity are lights, appliances and … computer hardware and peripherals.

Aha! Regular readers of this blog will recall that, a couple of months ago, I replaced my bulky 2008 Mac Pro “cheese grater” tower with the new 2013 Mac Pro “trash can” model. I couldn’t think of any other changes I had made in recent months to lighting, appliances or computers. Could the Mac Pro be the cause of the savings? I had to find out.

The new Mac Pro is both more and less powerful than the old model

The new Mac Pro is both more, and less powerful, than the old model

Luckily I was able to research electricity bills for the past three years without too much trouble. Unsurprisingly, I found that my energy usage peaks in July, when the air conditioning runs the most; I use the least energy in December, when I typically close up shop for a few days during the holiday season.

On average, prior to this year, I had used 15.6 kWh per day during the months of February and March. Yet in February and March of this year, my KWh per day usage averaged just 12.4. And it was mid-way through February this year when I replaced my computer; had I replaced it at the beginning of the month, it’s likely that number would be even lower.

electric-per-day

I figure that the new Mac Pro is saving at least 3.2 kWh per day — a savings of more than 20% off of my total electric usage. The cost of one kWh in the expensive local market, on average over the past three years, has been 28 cents. So that works out to a savings of about 90 cents per day.

That’s about $328 per year. I had my previous Mac Pro for six years, so if the current one matches that tenure, that will work out to $1,968 in energy savings over the life of the Mac.

Apple helpfully provides power consumption data for its entire Mac Pro line going back to the original model in 2006. In an idle state my 2008 Mac Pro consumed 112 watts more than the 2013 Mac Pro – the equivalent of more than 8 energy efficient light bulbs. Over a period of 24 hours (I had often left my Mac Pro on overnight to run background tasks) that would work out to 2.7 kWh per day. Factoring in the greater efficiencies of the OS and hardware, the new Mac Pro is idle and sleeping more, and so my estimate of a 3.2 kWh per day savings seems reasonable.

The new computer is saving the cost of keeping these lit all day long

The new computer is saving the cost of keeping these lit all day long

Of course, replacing the old 2008 Mac Pro with just about any modern computer (like an iMac) would have resulted in a cost savings. And I realize that this is but an infinitesimal drop in the ocean of energy issues that our planet faces. Still, we tend to just flip on a light switch or boot up a computer without often thinking about what it takes or costs to make that happen, so knowing that the new computer saved some green – and, saved some green – is a good feeling.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

kb April 17, 2014 at 8:16 AM

so basically that would pay for the new computer :-)

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Steve April 17, 2014 at 10:40 AM

My thoughts exactly – it pays for itself! Excellent news.

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John Link April 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

It will be interesting to see whether your power consumption continues to be about 3.2 kWh per day lower than your previous average. Please post the results in the coming months.

At http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/01/02/apple-touts-energy-material-efficiency-in-mac-pro-environmental-report I found the following:

As for energy efficiency, the Mac Pro incorporates intelligent components that are able to power down during periods of inactivity, thereby cutting down on estimated greenhouse gas emissions. Meeting ENERGY STAR requirements, the new professional desktop consumes 68 percent less power while idling than the previous Mac Pro.

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Philip Rothman April 17, 2014 at 11:23 AM

John: I’ll certainly be monitoring this in the coming months to see if the savings continue.

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Justin Tokke April 17, 2014 at 6:05 PM

What does this have to do with Sibelius, exactly?

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Philip Rothman April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Justin: It’s fair to say that every Sibelius user is a computer user, so I thought readers would be interested in my findings. I intended it as a follow up to this detailed report about upgrading my Mac Pro, which many readers seemed to enjoy.

The blog continues to focus primarily on Sibelius, but occasionally other music products are featured, like this review of NotateMe, and sometimes news about the music industry is covered, like this obituary about Leland Smith, the creator of SCORE.

Rest assured I won’t be covering sports, politics, or crocheting anytime soon! Thanks for reading.

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Philip Rothman May 8, 2014 at 9:59 AM

For those interested, the newest monthly bill (April-May 2014) shows continued, similar savings: 12.2 kWh per day.

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Leon Buijs October 28, 2014 at 8:59 PM

@kb & @Steve
I’m sorry but although it’s a nice perk, I don’t see how $256 per year covers for a new Mac Pro in six years. That’s only $1536. A Mac Pro starts at $3000 for the cheapest version.

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Roxanne Wright January 22, 2015 at 9:43 PM

This is truly interesting news. Thanks for sharing your research about the new Mac Pro. It would be interesting to compare the Mac Pro and other Mac units as that seems a common question of which one to buy on here. Mac Pro is in a league of its own, especially for professionals.

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J. P June 7, 2016 at 1:15 AM

As an engineer I might want to add that the savings could be even more for some people. And that I liked that you used your total energy usage. Why? Because I was looking at watts only. I had forgotten the lesson of the many computer labs I’ve worked in and helped design. When you have a computer which used more power, it cost you that additional money. But the more power, the more heat, the louder the fans no matter how efficient. With one system that’s bad enough. You have, let’s say a dollar a day saved in watts for the computer. Then if it’s summer time you have the AIr conditioner running more to compensate. At likely a 50% extra usage of energy there in efficiency loss for that system. (Takes 1.5-2 watts of condenser power to remove the result of heat generated by every watt in the computer. So that’s $2.50 a day?. Maybe $3 for an old air conditioner system. (Which some might say is negated by the extra warmth in winter meaning the heater is run less. But even there we would see at least 30% more energy use due to the fact that most hearing systems are more efficient. Has ones being possibly 50% more efficient than air conditioners used for cooling via electricity. But the real deal is when you have 30 or even 120 computers in a lab. It’s why I had many labs switch early to LCD monitors. The savings made the tech pay for itself.

I was curious about the real world usage of power between these and also the Mac mini as a htpc server of sorts. Thanks for the numbers. I’m not using a Mac Pro. Dual concatuated Ethernet at the speed of FireWire 800 will have to come another way. Or not at all. Mac mini uses 8 watts while awake and not used heavily. Or whatever idle means. And the max power is 80 watts. I’m sure it’s 20-30 watts usually. As a 2007 15mbp used around 50-60 watts under moderate load.

But this $2000 number may be explained in the Ac bill lowering also. Thought the new Ac we got uses evaporation to get an efficiency I was truly amazed at. Like the cost to run a pre trash can Mac Pro! I think it was less than a dollar a day for a 20′ x 13′ room. Less when we staple that ton foil radiant barrier on the roof rafters and install a whole house five minute air pulling attic fan like they have in the desert communities.

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