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Folding@home: Electrons Cost Money

Illustration for article titled Folding@home: Electrons Cost Money
Screenshot: Excel 2007 for Geeks and the Obsessed

I have two GPUs, a 1060/6GB and a 1080 ti, both installed in a Precision 5820 workstation. Our typical monthly utility bill for our home, during temperate months, is about $100. We live in the SF Bay Area and cool our home at night and close the windows during the day when it gets hot. Our home is well insulated.

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The most recent two recent utility bills were $300.

Now, I realize that some of you would love a $300 utility bill, especially at the height of Summer.

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Because of the quarantine, we’re home all the time and some additional power usage is to be expected. And for sure, I expected running one or two PCs and GPUs 24/7 would not be free. It turns out that running the 5820 with both GPUs folding costs minimally $78/mo in Tier 1, and $100/mo in Tier 2 of the usage-based electricity pricing. This is not sustainable for me.

Bottom line: Folding 24/7 with the two GPUs uses more electricity than my entire household uses on some days.

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Illustration for article titled Folding@home: Electrons Cost Money
Screenshot: Extreme Overclockers

Actual usage is about 3.8 amps at 120 volts AC. This would be down, I assume, from having each GPU running in a separate case, particularly since I do not fold on CPU slots.

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Time for Plan B. I am investigating what it would cost to set up an off-grid, “cabin”-type solar power storage that would provide entirely for the power to operate the 5820 with both GPUs. I haven’t gotten a price for that yet, but my preliminary investigation suggests $8-10k when you add in the large flooded lead acid batteries. We’re talking 3.8 amps x 24 hours is a lot of amp hours at 120 VAC. Any such system would pay for itself at $80/mo. and rather than simply buying electrons, I’d be buying a backup electrical system for my home during an extended power outage.

Anyhow, this is my report. The folding is more expensive than I’d hoped it would be and I have to figure out what to do next. I’m not folding right now because there’s a heatwave and a bunch of wildfire smoke in the air.

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