Power Down, Dude?

By • April 2, 2012

For many years, I have been schizophrenic in my decisions about powering my studio and its various elements on/off or leaving them on 24/7. Most of the time over the years I leave them on but periodically I change my behavior.

There are several reasons during the periods I have chosen to do so that I do so:

1.Pro client-based studios do so.

2.I believe that the various components may be more subject to harm from powering them on and off that leaving them on.

3.A fool and his money are soon parted an I am a fool about money.

4.I am an environmentally irresponsible individual.

5.I am lazy.

Reasons 1-2 may have some merit but 3-5 reflects poorly on me I fear.

There are several reasons during the periods I have chosen not to do so that I do not do so:

1.I make my peace with the fact that there are times when I am not working on a project with a tight deadline where time is of the essence so powering everything up and loading my templates, which takes about 20 minutes, while annoying, is not that critical.

2.I start to believe that the various components may be more subject to harm from leaving them on constantly then from turning them on and off.

3.A fool and his money are soon parted and I decide I would rather save some of my hard earned money.

4.I have an attack of conscience about being an environmentally irresponsible individual.

5.I decide to be less lazy.

Clearly, it is better to be environmentally responsible and save money so the considerations really should boil down to: how busy with work you are; are you serving multiple clients; and does powering up/down or leaving them on do more damage or shorten the life of the various studio elements.

If you run a client-based studio you want to leave everything on, period. Nothing will lose you clients faster than having that client leave at 9:00 pm and return at 10:00 am and find that he cannot simply pick up where he left off. If like me, you have a composer’s project studio, then common sense would seem to dictate that if you are very busy working on projects with tight deadlines you should stay powered on and when not, power on in the morning and power off at night.

The joker in the pack is the impact on the gear so I decided to do some research and as usual with the audio world, the answers are not as clear cut as I would have liked them to have been.

The important elements of my studio are: 2 computers; two monitors; 1 audio interface; 1 set of powered studio monitors; 6 hard drives.

From both an environmental and financial standpoint, clearly I should power my computers down, at least before I go to bed. The heat buildup produced by leaving them on can potentially wear down the internal parts prematurely. And yet, most of the time when things go south with my computers, it has been when I powered them down at night, only to find troubles when I try to power them back on. Coincidence? I dunno. As they are plugged into a surge protected power strip so it is unlikely that a surge when turning them on is causing problems. And yet……

A dirty little secret is that electricity providers will slightly bump down form 120 volts during peak times of power usage in their communities but knowledgeable opinion is divided as to whether that is any more likely to do harm with the computers on than when off.

Computer monitors are another easy call. Since few of us are still using CRTS, preventing “burn in” by turning them off or running a screensaver is really no longer an issue with LCDs and LEDs. Plasma TVs is another story, but few of us use them as computer monitors. Simply touching them tells you they produce little heat and all recent ones are Energy Star rated as efficient. Still, energy use is energy use and money spent or saved is money spent or saved. Basically, it is like a kiss from your sister IMHO.

Powered studio monitors are a relatively easy call for me. They generate heat and use electricity. If you have them connected to a power strip with a power conditioner, turning them on and off from that power strip is unlikely to harm them or produce the dreaded pop that damages tweeters and hurts your ears. Even during the times I leave my studio largely powered up, I turn these on and off from my Furman Power Conditioner. Since they are not tube gear, there is no significant “warming up” time to factor in. The same is true of my audio interface, little to be gained by leaving it on, little danger in turning it on or off. Since I have I connected to the same power conditioner, it goes on and off with the monitors.

Hard drives are a tougher call. Google did a study some time ago about hard drives and found that if a drive does not fail in the first year, in all probability it can handle being on 24/7 without problem for a fair number of years. Of course, the day a drive does not fail puts you one day closer to the day it will  Drives heat up when they are on and cool down when they are off and that kind of heating and cooling does potentially wear the drive down. But with external drives in particular, after they have been inactive a while they typically spin down and then start up again when you use them so if you are not working constantly, there is that factor kicking in. And the constant spinning eventually will wear the drive out. Since SSDs do not have spinning platters, that issue becomes even murkier for me.

As for software, there are strong advantages to powering on and off daily, or at least weekly. Some applications gradually build up memory usage and do a poor job of housekeeping so you get “memory leaks”. Some of these can be reset by simply closing and re-opening the app but some happen at the OS level and only a reboot resets them.

So I have come to the conclusion that when I am hard at work on a project with a fairly tight deadline so that I am composing 8-12 hours a day virtually every day, I will leave everything powered on. When my workflow is more erratic, I will power down my audio interface and studio monitors when I am not using them for at least 4-5 hours, and everything else I will power on in the morning and power down at night…..unless I get lazy :)

What do you think?

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