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My friends and I are trying to hypothesize how computers use energy. Please settle the debate. Do computers, or any other electrical device of the sort, e.g. 3d printers, use different levels of power from an outlet when completing different tasks? For example, if I keep my charger in the outlet constantly, using it only for, say, emailing, does it use precisely the same amount of power if I were to keep my charger in the outlet constantly, while farming bitcoin, or playing a graphically intensive video game? Can the computer ask the outlet for more power (not more than the outlet is capable of, but in relation to how much it usually uses in menial tasks); or does the computer get the exact same amount of power, keeping it at full throttle, insofar as it is connected to the outlet?

Edit: analogous: for example, assuming my charger stays in the outlet at a constant rate (never being unplugged), will my electric bill increase or stay the same depending on whether or not I email, or if I play graphically intensive video games?

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you done any research or web searches? It seems very easy to find any number of data points to answer this question. $\endgroup$
    – hazzey
    Feb 12, 2018 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ As a matter of fact, I have. My friend and I had searched multiple articles, and found answers, but none addressing the almost philosophical, although I know it is not, conundrum of whether the battery stays at full capacity (charging at full strength regardless of the load). None of the articles we had found addressed this specific question. We had an extremely hard time wording the question. He's a civil engineer, and I have a degree in philosophy -- we know how to research, which is why it should be assumed that I knew to check google first. $\endgroup$
    – Papabear
    Feb 12, 2018 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ You don't mention a battery in your question. Your question asks about power usage while plugged in not about the effect of having a battery. $\endgroup$
    – hazzey
    Feb 13, 2018 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Buy one of these for $20 and you can test it out for yourself: homedepot.com/p/Kill-A-Watt-Electricity-Monitor-P4400/202196386 $\endgroup$
    – Daniel K
    Feb 14, 2018 at 3:39

2 Answers 2

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Yes, a computer uses varying amount of power. Yes a 3D printer uses a varying amount of power. In fact all electrical devices do vary based on load.

Both motors and processors use more energy when there is more load. This is pretty easy to see in a computer or graphics card when you run something heavy, then eventually the fans kick on maximum to cool the device. While if you idle it does not happen. More than that a idle computer actually shuts down parts of itself.

And yes mining bitcoin uses much more power than sending email * or playing graphic intensive games**. Bitcoin mining essentially maxes out everything for 24/7.

* even if you are a bulk e-mailer, because your network connection is limited

** you can only stay awake for so long

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    $\begingroup$ Worth adding - Yes, mining bitcoin will increase your electric bill vs. emailing. It'll also reduce the life of hardware involved, and increase your computer repair bills! $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2018 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanRSwift There is absolutely no evidence that a continuous load (like mining) shortens hardware life expectancy. Mechanical items like fans wear out but silicon chips do not. If anything, hardware used for mining could be in a better condition due to the lack of power cycles and thermal cycles it had to endure. $\endgroup$
    – MadMarky
    Feb 12, 2018 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MadMarky I suspect Mr. Seagull there has misread articles which point out (correctly) that many coin miners jack their rigs to serious overclocking levels, which of course does age components radically. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2018 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Both - If the articles point out that rigs are often overclocked, reducing the life of the chips, then surely it's not "misread" to say that hardware life would be reduced? Are fans etc. not included in "hardware involved"? @CarlWitthoft - *Mr. Swift (it's a Swift, not a Seagull) :P $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2018 at 9:15
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Imagine that you have a pressurized water tube. If you bore a bigger hole in it, you will get a bigger spatter. So is it going also with the wires. The wire is the tube, and the pressurized water is the electrons in the wire. In the case of wire, it is not so trivial, but there are cheap chinese devices doing it. The computer don't need to say to the connector, what power it wants. The connector and the power supply of the computer work together on a way, that the computer gets always what it wants. More details can you read here.

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