Steampunk Computer: Powerful & Energy Efficient

I created a home automation server similar to that in my quest for a completely solar-powered van. I was able to create a steampunk computer that is as efficient as the upgraded MacBook Pro, but costs 1/3 less.

It has been a while since I built my first computer. Building computers from scrap materials is what got me into the subject at 11.

You could use a Raspberry Pi or a laptop. However, I enjoyed the idea of having an Ubuntu server with a high level of power in my van. It was the same as what I used at home. Additional computing power is a benefit for a lot of my software development work. It was also designed as a steampunk computer, which made it easy to integrate with the van’s other components.

Understanding Computer Power Usage

Many people find power consumption confusing Computer Renaissance. However, it’s very easy to quickly learn by simply watching. A Kill-a-Watt is a handy gadget I purchased. It is easy to plug it into the wall and it will keep track of how much power was used by any device plugged in.

This device quickly revealed that the LG UltraFine5k monitor I purchased for my MacBook Pro (2017 USBC), was not in any sleep mode. It was drawing an average of 1.4 Kwh per day. This number is not unusually high, although it could be that consumption was higher when the screens were on. The MacBook Pro’s sleep mode was effectively disabled if I locked it and connected it directly to the Killa-Watt.

A 15-inch MacBook Pro can be benchmarked at 45 when fully charged and operating within reasonable limits. It can produce up to 95 Watts when it is pushed hard or charged.

Steampunk Keyboard & Computer Case allows you to pick the parts you need for your steampunk computer, verify that they are compatible and even view the power consumption of your build. To get some ideas, I started by reading this blog post.

My system was rated at 99 Watts (see part list). It has an i7 (2.9GHz quad-core), which was eventually upgraded to 32GB RAM and a SSD of 256GB… it is very similar to a 2018 15” MacBook pro.

DC Energy Efficient Computers

The van’s power comes from solar and batteries. It is therefore most efficient not to convert DC battery power into AC.

I came across a company that sells power supply units (PSUs), which consume DC. They recommended the M4ATX to me after chatting via email. It was capable of providing 250 Watts, which is more than enough power for my 151 Watt steampunk computer (allowing me some headroom if I need to sacrifice efficiency in order to have more computational power).