Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Leaving the lights on
Posted by Duncan Drennan at 08:30 Tags: design , energy , energy efficiency , engineering , solutionsI am an advocate of making sure that every device consumes as little power as possible at all times. Indicator lights should be off, processors should be sleeping as much as possible, and generally the device should just be optimised to use as little power as possible.
I may have to rethink that....at least a little bit.
Dan Lockton has a brilliant blog, Architectures of Control, where he discusses how things are designed to result in a certain action (or lack of action) – or as he calls it, design with intent.
There are two devices in my home which have helped me to reconsider turning off all the lights, my DVD player and my laptop. Each has its own subtle "architecture of control" whether intentional or not.
Our DVD player has (to me) the most irritating standby light that I have ever seen on any device. When on, the light is constantly illuminated, but when in standby the light flashes continuously (at a slow rate). This drives me mad, but results in an interesting action – it causes me to turn it off at the plug when I am not using it (which is most of the time). Suddenly one little flashing light has resulted in more energy saving than having no light.
My laptop has a similar "feature." When it is powered down the battery indicator remains on (green if full, flashing yellow if charging). This used to bother me, and I thought, "Why not just leave the light off when the battery is charged?" My wife's laptop is like that, the battery indicator only flashes if it is charging, once charged it turns off.
That is all good, except my laptop communicates to me that it is plugged in and consuming standby power when it is not in use. When I unplug it from the wall socket, then the battery indicator goes off – I save the standby power of both the power brick and the laptop.
There is one problem with this, it only works on people who care. If I did not care about saving energy, then I would just leave the laptop plugged in and the DVD player on. That means that you have to consider how your users will handle this kind of subtle feedback and determine whether turning the light off, or encouraging unplugging results in more energy savings.
Sometimes the most obvious design decisions may not be the ones which result in the greatest energy saving. Keep designing for low energy consumption and also keep your mind open to new possibilities.
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About Engineer Simplicity
Engineer Simplicity specialises in the design and development of electronic products.
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