Heat and energy considerations

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When BOINC applications are running on a computer, its CPU chip produces more heat than when it is idle. The computer's heat sinks and fans are normally able to dissipate this heat sufficiently. However, if the fans become clogged with dust, they may not be able to cool the CPU adequately, and this can lead to premature failure of the CPU or motherboard.

To deal with this problem, we recommend that you:

  • Clean your computer's fans and heat sinks periodically.
  • Install a utility that monitors CPU temperature, such as Motherboard Monitor or i8kfan (for Dell laptops).
  • If needed, set your preferences to throttle CPU usage.

The energy cost and environmental impact of running BOINC

A computer running BOINC uses more energy than an idle computer. The amount of additional energy depends on several factors:

  • How many additional hours per day you leave your computer powered on to run BOINC.
  • The energy consumption of your computer.
  • Whether you use your computer's power-management features to turn off your monitor when idle.
  • Your marginal electricity cost.

Using some typical values for energy usage and cost, here are estimates of the monthly costs (assuming USA average of 8 cents/kWh; the cost in Europe is about 200% higher):

Computer state (24 hrs/day) Typical power usage Energy per month Cost per month (USA) Cost per month (Europe)
Off 0 watts 0 kWh $0 €0
Idle 100 watts 73 kWh $5.84 €14,60
Active 150 watts 110 kWh $8.80 €22,00

Under these assumptions, running BOINC costs about $3/month more than leaving your computer on but idle, and about $8.80/month more than leaving it off all the time. Running BOINC in Europe costs more than running BOINC in the USA, but that's true for running any computer, not just BOINC.

There may also be an environmental cost. If your electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, the extra electricity usage produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. If this is the case, we recommend that you not leave your computer on just to run BOINC, or that you reduce your overall energy use to compensate.

If your home has electric heat, computing with BOINC may be energy-neutral, since the energy consumed by your PC is converted into heat.

You can measure the power usage of your computer using a power consumption meter. These are available for American or UK-type electrical outlets.

How to reduce BOINC's energy usage and cost

Some possibilities:

  • Set your preferences to allow BOINC to compute while your computer is in use, and turn your computer off when it's not in use.
  • Use your computer's power-management features to turn off your monitor when it's not in use, or to enter a low-power mode. A technical document about computer power management is available from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories.
  • If your electricity costs vary according to time of day, set your preferences so that BOINC computes only during periods of low electricity costs.