A history of electricity conservation in a million readings

Informatics energy use, 2011-2015After a period of relative inactivity, prompted by being interviewed by the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department, I’ve produced a plot of the electricity use in the Forum from July 2011 until now. July 2011 is when logs start from the Forum UPSs, which allows the electricity use to be apportioned between Servers, Offices (basically anything that runs from a socket in an office or seminar room) and  Other (ventilation, lifts, lighting, dishwashers, microwaves, coffee machines &c.). The graph reflects changes we’ve made to systems in the building quite nicely.

There are actually more than a million readings – actually 1,589,728 – which  I’ve now munged so that they’re almost all available from a SQL database. There is also a (at present poorly documented) R package that allows for easy querying and plotting of the data. It also does the work of extracting real power  from the UPS logs –  the Office UPS only supplies apparent power, so I’ve converted to real power using a power factor of 0.9, estimated from the Server UPS. Not included in the UPS power is the overhead required to run each UPS. Let me know if you’re interested in the data or the package.

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Sleep report

School of Informatics Computing Officer Chris Cooke has been working on the DICE sleep system recently, making it easier for machines to sleep whilst users are logged in. The system has been tested for a while and has now runs on all DICE desktops. Chris has also blogged about quantifying how much sleep machines are getting. The improved sleep system should  save a considerable amount of electricity and the system is designed so that machines should stay awake whilst running long jobs, so there should be no disruption to work. Thanks to Chris for his work on this, and thanks also to the group of beta-testers who’ve helped Chris to refine the system.

If you want to see how much your machine is sleeping, I’ve written a couple of scripts (which work with GNOME) that notify you discretely when you unlock how much your machine slept yesterday. To use them download this zip file, unpack it, put the sleep-analyse and sleep-info scripts in ~/bin and put the sleep-info.desktop file in ~/.config/autostart .

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Sleep and biscuits

Here is some great news from Chris Cooke (Computing Officer) about improvments to the sleep system on DICE desktops:

I’m looking for volunteers to help me test some energy-saving software.You will need to have a DICE computer already allocated to you.

Your reward will be the satisfaction of helping to reduce the School’s energy consumption, but in case that’s not enough, the first dozen people to respond can also relieve me of a Tortina chocolate biccie (“a heart of smoothest cream from the finest hazelnuts captured between two light and crisp wafers and then wrapped in exquisite milk chocolate”).

If you already have a DICE computer and you’d like to help, please replytelling me its name.

The software to be tested is a new version of lcfg-sleep, which decides when DICE desktops go to sleep and wake up. The main new feature of the test version is that it will send a machine to sleep while an X session is running, if that X session has been idle for long enough. (The current version, which runs on all DICE desktops, doesn’t sleep the machine at all if an X session is running.)

I’m not aware of any remaining bugs in the new version of lcfg-sleep, and it’s been running for some time now on computing staff desktops. However I’m not quite so sure whether it has the best possible configuration. I’d like to fine tune it to make sure that it doesn’t annoy people too much, for instance by being too quick to make the computer sleep.

If you take part, your duty will mainly be just to tell me what you think of the new sleep behaviour, especially if it annoys or inconveniences you. If you spot anything wrong please tell me about that too of course.

The software is documented at:

and the new version’s differences are documented at:

If you’d like to help please reply telling me the name of your DICE machine. Thanks.

And thanks to Chris for working on this. The test system has been running well for me for about a week now.

Image released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license by Chocablog.

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Event: ‘Our Climate Change Story’

I’ve had notice of this event, organised by the Sustainability office:

‘Our Climate Change Story’
Informatics Forum G.07, Tuesday 5th March 5-7pm

This Climate Week, come along to find out what staff and students across the University are doing about climate change, ranging from energy efficiency in buildings, to setting up a food co-operative, and discuss what we want to make happen next.

Contributions will include short presentations from David Somervell (Sustainability Advisor), Sarah Lang (Hearty Squirrel Food Co-op), David Sterratt (Energy Coordinator, Informatics Forum), Max Crema (Vice-President Services, EUSA), and others. There will also be plenty of interactive discussion with everyone involved.

Please book a ticket if you plan on attending, so we know how many to expect, at http://ourclimatechangestory.eventbrite.com/

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Progress on pantry lighting

Dave Hamilton, building superintendent, has reported some welcome news on pantry lighting in his email to if-people:

There has been a long standing problem in the Forum whereby pantry area lighting is tied to the main stairwell lighting and the areas are being unnecessarily lit at night.

Work is due to begin this coming Thursday  (24th Jan.) to place the pantry area lights on a separate circuit with individual PIRs. This will stop them coming on with the stair lights but will bring them on if anyone enters the area in the evenings.

The work will involve annexing an area usually reserved for seating and the corresponding area on the floor above. The areas will usually be out of operation for two days at a time.

Normal access to the sink and associated facilities will be maintained but the seating will be limited.

Current Schedule:

East Side pantries:
Thu. 24th: MF2 (floor), Level 3 (3.41) ceiling
Fri 25th: Level 3 (3.41) floor, Level 2 (2.42) ceiling
Mon. 28th: Level 2 (2.42) floor, Level 1 (1.36) ceiling

Work will then move on to the west side pantries:
Tue. 29th: Level 5 (5.01) ceiling
Wed. 30th: Level 5 (5.01) floor, Level 4 (4.01) ceiling
Thu. 31st: Level 4 (4.01) floor, Level 3 (3.01) ceiling
Fri. 1st: Level 3 (3.01) floor, Level 2 (2.01) ceiling
Mon 2nd: Level 2 (2.01) floor, Level 1 (1.01) ceiling

Apologies for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience whilst we and E+B try to limit unnecessary energy consumption within the Forum.

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Festive switch-off

Here’s advance notice of the Festive switch-off as it applies to Informatics.

This year’s request from the Computing Officers will be similar to last year’s:

Please help to reduce the University’s energy bill by switching off any
equipment, including computers and monitors, that you are unlikely to
use over the Xmas break.

If you are responsible for research group servers, please consider powering these down over the vacation. Contact support if you need computing staff to do this for you.

You can power off a DICE box either by briefly pressing the power button on the front of the machine or choosing the Shutdown option from the menu at the bottom of the DICE login screen.

If you think you may want to remotely access your desktop over the holidays, log out […]. You can wake the machine again by going to wake.inf.ed.ac.uk. Self-managed machines can also be awoken using this mechanism – contact support for details.

Note that logging out will allow your machine to sleep. Putting it to sleep using System->Shutdown…->Suspend from within a graphical session doesn’t work completely yet – if the machine wakes again, it won’t go back to sleep. The comprehensive documentation on sleep explains more.

Can we do better than last year?

Last year, the data collected from the main meter showed that in the quietest week of the vacation we managed to reduce the total electricity use by about 23% on a typical week (Table 1, below). Data collected from the UPS systems showed that power used by offices was down by about 27% and server electricity was down by 28%.  However the baseline usage (the minimum in any week) was down by only 21% for offices, as opposed to 26% for servers (Table 2). It would be great if we could get the baseline down lower this year.

Table 1: Weekly total electricity use (kWh)

     from Office Server Other Total Forum % Server % Other % Total %
2011-12-05 10336   8193 25423 43953     100      100     100     100
2011-12-12 10162   7953 25033 43148      98       97      98      98
2011-12-19  8796   7248 24308 40352      85       88      96      92
2011-12-26  7513   5891 20229 33633      73       72      80      77
2012-01-02  8743   6953 22512 38208      85       85      89      87
2012-01-09  9749   7734 24365 41848      94       94      96      95
Table 2: Weekly baseline electricity use (kW)

     from Office Server Other Forum % Server % Other %
2011-12-05    52     47    98     100      100     100
2011-12-12    52     46   102      99       99     104
2011-12-19    41     35    96      79       74      98
2011-12-26    41     35    97      79       74      98
2012-01-02    43     35    91      81       75      93
2012-01-09    48     45    99      91       95     101
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Live energy display now live

The live energy display I mentioned in June is now appearing in the sequence of images and videos on the plasma screen by the entrance. You’ll need to wait a maximum of about 15 minutes for it to appear.

If you’d rather not stand around waiting, you can also view the information via this web page. Now’s a nice time to look, as it looks as though we are on track to use 15% less electricity in 2012 than we did in 2011!

Thanks to Dougie Williams in Estates and Buildings for working with  Meterology to generate the web page from the University’s metering system, and to our COs Jennifer Oxley and Alison Downie for putting the page into the screen’s playlist.

More thanks are due to Dougie for making tweaks to the building controls that are probably responsible for a chunk of the savings. Computing and office energy use is also down, so thanks are also due to Computing Support and everyone who has been turning off equipment and putting machines to sleep.


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Lighting improvements in toilets

One project that has been undertaken by Mike Riley’s team at Estates and Buildings is to adjust the Passive Infrared Sensors (PIRs) in the toilets so that now the lights come on only when you enter a cubicle rather than as you pass by.

There are more lighting projects in the offing (see the list of projects and the POE report), including the lights in the some of the coffee areas that never go out.

And although we don’t have control over all lights in the building, we can help by turning off office and meeting room lights when leaving.


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Action arising from post occupancy evaluation

Executive summary: there are a number of projects either underway or under discussion to reduce energy consumption in the Forum and improve the comfort of its occupants. The  notes of the latest Post Occupancy Evaluation meeting explain some of the thinking behind the list.

For the longer story, read on…

Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE)  is, according to Preiser et &al., cited in Wikipedia,

the process of evaluating buildings in a systematic and rigorous manner after they have been built and occupied for some time.

In a presentation at the Mainstreaming POE meeting at the Lighthouse, Glasgow in 2009, Bill Bordass and Adrian Leaman propose that the main key questions addressed by POE are:

1. How is this building working?
2. What do people think about it?
3. How does this relate to client and design intent?
4. How can this building be improved?
5. How can future buildings be improved?

The presentation gives examples of buildings that do not perform as designed,  demonstrating the importance of  POE.

What’s this to do with us? The same Bill Bordass has been undertaking a POE of the Potterrow Development (i.e. the Informatics Forum and Dugald Stewart Building) for the University and Bennetts Associates, the Forum’s architects. You may remember filling in a questionnaire in July 2011 about your perception of the building. The responses to this survey, and other data will be presented in the report.

In the process or writing the report, Bill Bordass has had a number of meetings with staff from Estates & Buildings, Informatics and PPLS. At these meetings several energy-saving and comfort-improving ideas have been discussed and actions have been agreed on, as detailed in the notes of the last POE meeting. Bill’s contributed his understanding, gleaned from years of experience of investigating buildings, of how the heating and ventilation in the Forum work in practice. He’s also put forward some new ideas and helped to refine some which had already been discussed by Informatics and E&B people, as summarised in the Informatics Energy report. Gratifyingly, the results of our in-house comfort survey have complemented the survey run by Bill.

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Heating and space temperature standards

I know from the comfort survey that many occupants of the Forum feel too cold in Winter. However, if you are lucky enough to have an office that is warm enough, please bear in mind the Energy Office’s request to not overheat your office.

If you do feel too cold (or hot), then take a look at the Energy Office’s advice. One link from that page is to the University’s current Space Temperature Standards.  Among other things, I didn’t know that:

The University aims to provide a working room temperature of 20-21°C in academic and administrative areas during the heating season (mid September through to early May)

If you’d like to order a thermometer, please email Shona Buchanan in the Energy Office.


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