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Will computers be affected by the EU's ban on powerful home electronics?


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#1 Taoki

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 08:33 AM

I'm not one to follow the news closely, so I don't fully know what this is all about yet. But apparently, a few politicians in the European Union suddenly have this idea that hairdriers and vacuum cleaners are a danger to the environment and contribute to global warming, and intend to ban some electrical goods based on power consumption. I don't want to dive into legal or ethical issues here, since that would be a separate thread for The Speak Easy section. I only wanted to ask one specific question:

 

Does this initiative put computer users in any danger, or might in the future? Including normal PC's, powerful servers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices, and so on. Does certain hardware, such as powerful CPU's or coolers or power sources, risk getting banned from the market? Could powerful computers even be confiscated by police at some point?

 

I'm starting from an optimistic premise this time... since I assume the issue is with powerful electrical devices, and computers should barely count in comparison to electrical lawnmowers. If I remember correctly, my desktop's power source is 500W, and I also have a LED monitor now which I heard are super cheap on electricity. But I'd like to be cautious and know for sure if there are any risks please. Thanks.



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#2 myrti

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 09:14 AM

Hi,

 

Since it seems they're talking mostly about devices that use 2000Watt and more, you would probably be safe. With 500W your well below the power consumption of any hair dryer (which apparently start at around 900W). In either case the regulations are for import and sale.. Nobody will take away what you bought already.. That's also why so many people rushed to buy tons of lightbulbs or a super powerful vacuum cleaner before the ban went into effect.. Because whatever you own won't be taken away.

 

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#3 buddy215

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 09:24 AM

The obvious solution is baldness...shaved heads.

Another solution is to ban computer games. Game machines are over powered for just checking email. Since I'm

not a gamer....I would be all for that.

I detest housework...so banning vacuum cleaners would be okay with me, too. Just wait until skin cells, lint, dirt and

insect carcasses accumulate to depth that can easily be scooped up or swept off. Ban carpets!

 

Of course there would be exceptions made for those who install a few thousand square yards of solar panels or

200' tall windmills in their back yards or atop their condos.


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#4 rp88

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 10:57 AM

Compared to hairdryers, kettles and cookers PC's have very low power consumption. A computer only emits energy in a few forms:

1)light, from the display

2)sound from the speakers

3)heat from the resistance in all the tiny wires and components

Compare this with a kettle which although it emits power in only 1 way it is using it to heat water, a substance with a shockingly high specific heat capacity. To boil 1 kilogram (given water is used as a standard density this is 1 litre) of water from 20(degrees) c to 100(degrees) c and then boil it to steam uses

E=mc(delta T)+ ml  where m is 1 kg, c is the specific heat capacity(4181 J/Kg), m is the latent heat of vaporisation(2260x10^3 J/kg). this comes out as 2.59x10^6 joules, even just the heating to boiling point without evaporating takes 334 Kilojoules. if that heating to boiling point(but not actually boiling) takes 1 minute then the kettle needs  5.5 kilowatts or so. A laptop usually needs less than 100 watts, i couldn't find the figures quickly but i doubt any desktop is over 1 kilowatt. Your computer should be safe.

 

I would suggest any EU bureaucrat thinking that average computers are damaging the environment should learn some basic physics, assuming that the blokes in Brussels can understand that i should think computers are quite safe from legislative lunacy.  As for power consumption of other devices it makes sense for manufacturers to be encouraged to design devices with lower power consumptions, climate change (and more dangerous resource depletion) are very significant threats of the near future, so a higher VAT tax on the most power hungry appliances would make sense but a ban might just drive consumers "underground"

("want to buy a high powered hair dryer,mate?" [lifts up coat to reveal rows of older appliances hanging from hidden internal pockets] [potential buyer complains]"they were cheap in the shops"  "but you can't get them in the shops no more!"  ).

Ofcourse investment into nuclear energy sources, especially fusion power, would make the whole worry of carbon emissions, unreliable gas suppliers and peak oil a thing of the past, though some geoengineering may still be needed to clean up the climatic damage already done. Renewables are technically "OK" but they can't really cope with the sheer amount of electricity our society requires*. 

*requirement is a non-negotiable fact, as a society advances it will always have higher power consumption than it did previously, the trick is to provide this power cleanly and reliably.


Edited by rp88, 01 September 2014 - 11:03 AM.

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#5 Taoki

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 11:41 AM

Thank you for the answers. If the difference is indeed this great, computers should be safe. I wasn't certain if a desktop PC might emit more than your average hairdrier, and therefore could become a target.

 

There's one thing I haven't quire understood however: Does the new legislation specify what consumption level is targeted? Are they banning electronics over 1000W, 5000W, 10000W, etc?

 

Otherwise, if I can still add my opinion on the ban itself, I can only say this: I'm logical and aware enough to realize that global warming is there, and that it's a huge problem that needs to be dealt with urgently. Dealing with it will unfortunately require some measures that won't be comfortable for everyone. I do however tend to be skeptical on how much banning powerful vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers can possibly make a difference, and tend to find the idea rather ludicrous for starters. But I don't have the data to judge... so as long as the issue is approached sanely and indeed justified, I can understand it. Lastly, if there is anything good that comes out of this, it will be pushing researchers into investing in energy efficiency more, which will indeed push toward greater progress.



#6 rp88

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 05:08 PM

I don't know for certain but i'm sure they dare not ban things based on a simple power consumption, they might ban "hairdryers over X watts", or "kettles with efficiency below Z%" but banning things purely by their consumption and not considering what they are and how efficient they are will never be accepted by manufacturers/populations. For example a 1 kilowatt desktop computer is wasteful but a 1kilowatt supercomputer is impossibly low, you can probably guess how a hair dryer operating at some power level would be considered highly inefficient and overkill, but an oven operating at the same power level would be physically impossible. They will ,assuming they have IQs in double figures or higher, be setting limits on how much power a specific type of device/gadget/appliance can use, not blanket "nothing over Y watts".


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#7 Taoki

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 08:08 PM

Yes, I agree there. This is one reason why I'm not as worked up over +1600W vacuum cleaners being banned, and consider it a sane decision; In practice, you're unlikely to experience a noticeable difference between an 1600W vacuum cleaner and a 2000W one. Both should clean at the same perceived speed and efficiency, because 1600W is probably enough to pull most dirt away. The difference can probably only be measured in milliseconds, and no one cares to vacuum so fast that the speed at which the dirt is pulled through the pipe matters.

 

For hairdriers however it would be different. Since power has a direct effect on the result, so a less powerful one means using it for a longer period of time. Therefore I hope the people making such legislation will stay sane and not blow the concept out of proportions, without thinking everything very carefully first.


Edited by Taoki, 01 September 2014 - 08:10 PM.


#8 Platypus

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 12:45 AM

Assuming this is what it appears to be at face value, it does look like a classic case of politicians and bureaucrats failing to understand what they are dealing with. However it could also be misreported and made to resemble an episode of Yes Minister. :)

 

However if correct, restricting the power consumption of appliances such as hair dryers and kettles which are used to achieve a specific end will have no overall effect on power consumption. The energy required to perform specific functions such as heating/boiling water uses the same amount of total energy regardless of the rate of application. So boiling a kettle with a litre of water in it uses the same amount of energy whether the element is 1800W or 2200W, the lower powered one just takes longer. *

 

So it could be a case of "We must do something", without recognising that "something" may not achieve any worthwhile purpose.

 

I do agree however that it might be useful to curb some silly things like the 2000W vacuum cleaners you mention Taoki. With good fan design, 1000 - 1200W units can provide perfectly adequate suction and air throughput. Much higher power motors compensate for lower fan efficiencies.

 

*  This may not be strictly the whole story - for example the lower power kettle might actually use a tiny bit more energy, as heat will have a longer period to be radiating away from the body of the unit making it even slower to boil by a tiny amount, but any difference would be so tiny as to be irrelevant to the concept.


Edited by Platypus, 08 September 2014 - 05:55 PM.

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