Power is a bit of an unusual topic for us to cover, but it is becoming more and more pertinent in the times we like in. Particularly for digital crafters, but also for soft crafts, mixed media and paper craft artists. Firstly though, I wanted to say that as much as we can lower our usage, it is the standard charge that makes it difficult to lower your bill itself significantly; but if we use less electricity we are also helping our planet.
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The worst offenders – the “power hungry”
So, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to ignore the rest of the house. Generally though, if it is on standby turn it off and just that step can save you ridiculous amounts of usage.
Both inkjet and laser printers can be terribly power hungry. Not just when they are printing, but also at initial turn on and at times throughout their stand by period. Therefore, if you aren’t intending to print, you are much better off keeping them switched off. I’m a reasonably heavy user of my printer, but I’ve also started batch printing: planning what I need to print, running the jobs in one go and turning the printer back off.
The printer I use is the Brother HL-L3230CDW and its a colour laser A4 printer with 1 tray and manual feed. It is quite good at taking card and most other things we’ve tried. Always make sure whatever you use is rated for using with a laser printer to avoid damaging your printer.
Now, its listed at 390W and this is the maximum you should expect it to require when printing, and also when initialising on power on and at random times in stand by. The standby power is significantly lower when it is totally inactive, but it will have random spurts of activity. If you aren’t planning to print though, this is excess power that is being wasted.
Label printers tend to be much smaller so tend to naturally take a little less oomph. So if you do a lot of labelling, postal or organisational projects they may be worth considering. Many of these are not archival and can fade over time; worth checking before purchasing. The Design n Craft printer by Brother (aka VC-500W), for instance, lists its power consumption as 2.0W. Sadly, I couldn’t find my exact label printer to be able to do a comparison between stated power consumption and what we actually see through our smart meter. For those of you who are interested more in the Design n Craft, you can purchase it on Craft Stash, Amazon UK and Rymans.
OK so by craft machines I mean those with moving parts: cutters, plotters and sewing machines. Anything with moving parts will likely require significant power behind those actions.
Again, the smaller the device, typically the lighter the load. So, a Cricut Joy will typically draw less power than a Cricut Maker as it doesn’t have to cover the same distance. So if you are only a card maker or miniaturist, then a Joy is a sensible purchase over a Maker at this current time. You can apply the same rules to a certain extent with plotters.
Sewing machines can vary from handheld machines that are battery operated through to full size electric machines. Obviously the battery operated ones will save electric (see battery saving below) but sometimes to the loss of features or ability. Sewing machines will often use more power than a cutting machine as they tend to be physically active for longer periods and with more force. A compact sewing machine can be battery operated, so finding a wattage can be a little more difficult, but a full size machine is can be anywhere from 18W to 45W on the ones I could find a rating on (and that was entirely on unknown brand models). It is something that the crafting sector needs to improve on in listings and information pages. While the wattage may not sound significant, it is the time it is running at that wattage that will make the difference.
The hidden power suckers
So we all have those little things we think don’t take lots of power: glue guns, heat guns are obviously going to suck your power. However, you might be overlooking things like USB power packs and charging points, external hard drives and disk drives and little powered gadgets. All these little bits add up. Consider if they really need to be constantly powered or if they can just be used as and when required. Sometimes a USB memory stick can be a better solution to an external HD.
How to resolve the power issue
Start at the power source
Firstly, start at socket level. I only have two sockets in my craft room, which makes things tricky; I’ve split them between rarely used and frequently used. The physical layout of the room after that can be a little tricky, and its taken us a while to get a layout that fits. Watch this space for a completed studio tour with storage etc. So, in one socket I have the computer set up, ScanNCuts and the Silhouette; along with a separate extension desk tools like the heat gun, glue gun charging, USB power pack charging. The other socket has my electric die machine, laminator and printer.
Plan the tree
Secondly, once you have this sorted and you’ve worked out your furniture, next you need to figure out how easy it will be to access the sockets. If you have anything blocking them in or making them difficult to get to, you need to choose a remote solution for turning the socket on and off. Consider whether you want a solution with a physical remote or something that ties into a voice activated system such as Alexa or Google Nest. We’ve gone voice activated as the “off” power consumption is quite low and saves having multiple remotes (which I’m terrible for losing LOL). This needn’t be expensive as many you can control using the free Alexa or Google Nest app on your phone if you don’t want to invest in Echos, Shows and the like.
Thirdly, work out how many sockets you need for your items. If something can charge from USB, then invest in a solution which also has USB ports. These will typically charge faster in many cases and without excess power. You also want a solution that has surge protection if you have a computer, printer, cutter or other expensive electronics. Here are the ones closest to what we use:
Power in Practice
If it has a battery, use it. I use my MacBook when its charging, when its full remove the power and use it on battery. This can save electricity easily and with convenience – and many batteries work better this way. Likewise, try not to let a battery run totally flat, so get down to the last 5% or so and then charge. If the item can’t be used while charging, monitor the charge so its not over charged. Once the battery is full, it is wasted energy and can cause overheating.
Choose wisely, for most tasks I now use my MacBook over my desktop as the power saving is so significant. Consider if you have a similar choice you can make with what items you currently have. This might be using your tablet for some Cricut and Silhouette tasks instead of booting up a PC. Size really can make a difference in power consumption and if you don’t need the full functionality of the larger item then stepping down can be the wiser choice.
Planning your workload
Sometimes, using the larger drains are unavoidable like the desktop computer and the printer. Here’s how I work, I plan heavy consumption days where I (mostly) ignore the meter, but instead, I focus on productivity. Typically, these are days when I stream, so big computer has to be on anyway (unless its software based). I plan my photo printing into multi page documents, proof the current state of play with anything that needs final checks before publication, and do any heavy lifting computing tasks like video editing or book editing. On days like these I’ll often do a lot of cutting and embossing too… and the washing if I need to stretch my legs :D.
On the lighter load days, I’ll stick to letting things air dry rather than using the heat gun, using the Platinum over the Gemini. If something really needs to use the ScanNCut/Silhouette, I’ll have it on USB or send it from the MacBook.
While usage can nowhere near mitigate entirely the spiralling costs of energy, it can certainly help. I hope these simple tips help you keep crafting longer.