Mac Mini Energy Efficiency (and it shows!)

I have been using my brand new Mac Mini for 2 months now. I have read the comprehensive environmental report from the Apple site on the Mac Mini, from energy efficiency, material use, to recyclable materials just to name a few. I happened to take a peek at my household’s utility bill and I was quite surprised that our electricity usage has gone down! Could it be attributed to the new energy efficient Mac Mini?

Before I get down to the evidence, proving you that it may play a part in saving energy consumption within my household, you need to understand what Apple, as a company is trying to accomplish when it comes to making more environmentally friendly hardware.

Apple is trying to be at the forefront in making all of its products as environmentally friendly as possible, from manufacturing all the way to consumer use. It not only takes into consideration the energy usage of their hardware like their computers and notebooks, it also takes into consideration, packaging, materials use, and use of harmful and toxic chemicals into their products. They aim to achieve high levels of recyclable materials, minimize packaging and reduce the amount of carbon footprint through the use of their hardware by the consumers.

Mac mini has touted to be the most environmentally friend product from apple. Achieving an EPEAT Gold status and meeting the strict requirements of the Energy Star 5.0 standard is an honorable feat.

When Mac Mini is in idle mode, (that means the computer is on, but no background programs running actively) it uses only 13 to 14 watts of energy. That is highly efficient for a desktop computer. According so, Mac Mini takes the top 4 spots in the most energy efficient desktop computers out there on the market. Even nettops (or desktop with netbook-like performances) cannot achieve such efficiency despite running on an Atom CPU at 1.6Ghz.

When in sleep mode, it gets even better. It only consumes only approximately 1.6 to 1.8 watts of energy!

All these looks good on paper but does it really have a big impact on a typical household’s energy usage? It does, at least for me.

About my usage habits

I typically use my computer and leave it on when I’m not using for at least 10 to 12 hours a day when I am at home and not in school. Unless I leave the house, I would switch it off. I set the mac mini to go to sleep mode after 30 minutes, and my monitor to sleep after 15 minutes.

I practiced the same thing on my previous PC. I used an AMD CPU and an ATI 3850 dedicated graphics chip.Naturally, the power consumption of this PC is much higher. I had problems with my old PC after using it for about one year. I had difficulties switching it on everytime i used it. Therefore, to save myself the trouble, I usually leave it on throughout the day even when I’m not at home. This kind of habit is definitely very wasteful and no doubt my carbon footprint is really high. I am not proud of it and I didn’t give much thought at the amount of energy I’m wasting just for the sake of convenience.

Though I cannot accurately quantify the amount of energy that I saved once I made the switch, but I can confidently show that it does made a considerable impact.

Energy consumption for the month of December

Click on the image below to see a snapshot of my household’s energy consumption.

The horizontal line represents the national average. July to September are below national average. But a spike can be seen during the month of October. This is probably caused by the fact that during that month, I was at home almost everyday. It was the exam period and I used the computer extensively, compared to previous months when my computer was off most of the time. The mac mini was delivered to me on the 1st day of November.

The energy consumption for oct was high for another reason. I played video games in my Playstation 3 more often then the previous months. As you all know, the playstation 3 is a beast. The complex number crunching done by the Cell Processor and Nvidia RSX chip totally justifies its need to suck 380 watts of power when in use.

As you can see for the month of December, energy decreased considerably and well below national average! November also shows a decrease from the previous month as soon as I made the switch. Comparing October to December, the decrease was substantial. I played less games on the month of December as compared to November thus explaining a further decrease in energy consumption.

There you have it. The first real evidence that energy efficient products can make a noticeable effect on energy consumption. These saving are helpful in saving money in the long run and it feels great to know that I am doing my part in saving the environment no matter how small it is. It would be interesting to see my energy consumption when the new semester begins in January. I will definitely keep tabs on the utility bills from now on. I have a safe bet that January’s consumption will be lower than August or December levels due to the Mac Mini.


Last but not least, the packaging. Another real evidence in the continuing effort made my apple to reduce packaging materials. My mum bought an earlier model of the Mac Mini and she uses it for work. As you can see, the old packaging on the left is much bigger than the new one on the right despite having the exact same dimensions on both Mac Minis.

So guys, the next time you are thinking of buying a new computer, or any tech gadget or home appliance, please spare a thought for the environment. Factor your carbon footprint when you are making decisions for your next big purchase.

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