Most energy efficient (home) setup

Leo Bicknell bicknell at
Thu Feb 23 15:29:35 UTC 2012

In a message written on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 01:13:47PM -0800, Jeroen van Aart wrote:
> After reading a number of threads where people list their huge and 
> wasteful, but undoubtedly fun (and sometimes necessary?), home setups 
> complete with dedicated rooms and aircos I felt inclined to ask who has 
> attempted to make a really energy efficient setup?

I've spent a fair amount of time working on energy effiency at home.
While I've had a rack at my house in the distant past, the cooling
and power bill have always made me work at down sizing.  Also, as
time went by I became more obsessed with quite fans, or in particular
fanless designs.  I hate working in a room with fan noise.

As others have pointed out, there are options these days.  Finding
a competent home router isn't hard, there are plenty of consumer,
fanless devices that can be flashed with OpenWRT or DDWRT.  I've
also used a fanless ALIX PC running a unix OS, works great.  Apple
products like the Mini and Time Capsule are great off the shelf
options for low power and fanless.  Plenty of folks make low power
home theater or car PC's as well.

The area where I think work needs to be done is home file servers.
Most of the low power computer options assume you also want a
super-small case and a disk or two.  Many Atom motherboards only
have a pair of SATA ports, a rare couple have four ports.  There
seems to be this crazy assumption that if you need 5 disks you need
mondo processor, and it's just not true.  I need 5 disks for space,
but if the box can pump it out at 100Mbps I'm more than happy for
home use.  It idles 99.99% of the time.

I'd love a low powered motherboard with 6-8 SATA, and a case with
perhaps 6 hot swap bays but designed for a low powered, fanless
motherboard.  IX Systems's FreeNAS Mini is the closest I've seen,
but it tops out at 4 drives.

But what's really missing is storage management.  RAID5 (and similar)
require all drives to be online all the time.  I'd love an intelligent
file system that could spin down drives when not in use, and even for
many workloads spin up only a portion of the drives.  It's easy to
imagine a system with a small SSD and a pair of disks.  Reads spin one
disk.  Writes go to that disk and the SSD until there are enough, which
spins up the second drive and writes them out as a proper mirror.  In a
home file server drive motors, time you have 4-6 drives, eat most of the
power.  CPU's speed step down nicely, drives don't.

The cloud is great for many things, but only if you have a local copy.
I don't mind serving a web site I push from home out of the cloud, if my
cloud provider dies I get another and push the same data.  It seems like
keeping that local copy safe, secure, and fed with electricty and
cooling takes way more energy (people and electricty) than it should.

       Leo Bicknell - bicknell at - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at
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