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How much does rendering at home cost?

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Rendering at home or on the office workstation is how most of us start in our careers. It’s the obvious solution for an easy start and it continues to represent a viable option for every artist during their evolution. And because of these very reasons, most people don’t ever consider the costs associated with it.

Wait, what costs?

If this was your first reaction after reading the introduction, you’re partially right. If you’re a freelancer or have a small studio and you render on the machines you work on, the costs of the rendering process are often written-off as part of the total home/office expenses. They are there, though: the extra dollars you paid when you went for a more powerful workstation just to render faster, or the entire amount you paid for a dedicated rendering machine. The electricity costs, for the workstation and the extra cooling power needed to compensate for the generated heat. And I won’t talk here about the impact on the quality of life if you’re working from home: noise, dealing with the occasional computer freeze or hardware failure, mobility (laptop vs. desktop).

Acquisition costs

Every artist researched at some point a hardware configuration for their laptop or workstation. The usual process involves the delicate act of balancing the budget with the requirements and, in some cases, asking a more technical friend for advice. In this stage, putting a checkmark near the ‘needs to render fast‘ requirement usually adds to the complexity of the process and to the allocated budget. A more powerful CPU and/or GPU, more memory, a faster drive usually require secondary cost increases in cooling capacity and power generation. For a desktop, this means added costs. For a dedicated machine for rendering, the entire price of the machine is an added cost.

It’s difficult to quantify the amount of extra cash needed to upgrade the machine from a modeling one to a modeling + rendering one. Let’s say that the added cost is $200 to $300 on average for a desktop – which buys you a more powerful CPU and/or a faster GPU. In case you get a dedicated machine, $1,200 is a reasonable price point for a mid-range rendering box.

Running costs

Rendering needs power (in some cases, a lot of it) and generates heat. A mid-range desktop computer can use 600-800w per hour when rendering. In the US, the electricity price is between $0.09 and $0.19 per kWh, which brings the power cost for one hour of rendering to $0.05 – $0.15. The prices in the Eurozone are in the same range, only expressed in Euro.

If your rendering machine crunches projects 7 full days each month (the equivalent of five and a half hours every day), this means that your power bill for it is between $9 and $25 per month in the US.

The bottom line

Let’s put together the acquisition and power costs and see what is the total investment required by home or office rendering. Considering a 2-year usable lifetime for the hardware, rendering on your machine will cost you:

  • for a dedicated machine, between $1,400 and $1,800. This means between $58 and $75 per month in average
  • for an upgrade to an existing machine, between $410 and $900. This means between $17 and $37 per month in average

These numbers can be less or more relevant for your monthly budget, depending on a lot of factors: place of living, income levels, family status and so on. It’s up to each of us to determine that for themselves, but the important part is to be aware that these costs exist.

Can it be done any other way?

Doing this kind of math was one of the deciding factors in launching our RenderStreet One program. We wanted to offer a cheaper, faster, no-strings-attached option for rendering, that you can access from wherever you want. There are no upfront payments for hardware, you only pay for it in the months you use it, and it’s significantly faster than a single home/office machine. Which solution is the best choice for you, that’s up to you to decide.

If you want to try RenderStreet One, click here and you’ll get a full day of rendering for just $1, so you can see how it works.



Passionate about technology and constantly working on making a difference, Marius is RenderStreet’s CEO.