How Much can You Make Mining Ether and How Much does it Cost to Run?

I'll break it down for you, show you how much it costs to get up and running, how much you'll make and how much you can expect to pay for electricity, but first I want you to know that You're probably asking the wrong question. You shouldn't be asking "How much do I make in one day of mining Ether?"... Here's why:

Asking that, demonstrates that you might be getting into mining for the wrong reasons. If you're setting up a rig thinking you're going to strike it rich with a couple of GPUs in your parents basement and you've run up your credit card on 'case fans' like a hardware junkie, you might need to reconsider your goal. There is NO Ether mining 'get rich quick' scheme, nor is Ether day-trading a smooth route to a quick buck. It takes some work to get the basics working for you, but what it really takes to make it work, is Time.

If you are setting up a rig for any other reason, then you might be a long haul believer, like me. As I explained in one of my first articles' How I Learned to Mine Ether..., Bitcoin never felt that exciting to me, but Ethereum held promise of a new "form" of internet, the fuel of the new web, its' technological background is fundamentally different, and better. That alone is worth it for me, but then you add to that, the fact that some of the most valuable AltCoins are based on Ethreum as well. - that's why I voted for Ethereum with my dollars. But not just buying in, I got GPUs and dedicated my PC to be a mining rig because I wanted to be a part of the support for Ethereum and learn first hand how it all fits together, I really only 'invest' in things if I can understand and see how it works - I don't buy black box anything. So, as much as I would have to pay for new GPUs, I also put some money directly into buying ETH coins with smaller purchases spread out over 2 months to try and take advantage of average buying prices rather than the extremes or timing the market.



In terms of startup costs, I already had a PC with a power supply which could easily handle a couple more GPUs, as it only had the one 980 GTX at the time. This PC was primarily used for work, editing, development, testing and the occasional Steam game, so it has a 12-core Intel i7-5930K on liquid cooling with 32 GB of Ram, which I had overclocked to 4.4GHz sometimes, as most people would. About 85% of the time the PC sat switched off though, nobody was using it. (Explained in this video (linked here), are the costs involved in building a 4K Editing Gaming and Workstation PC like that, if you wanted to build a rig just for mining it can actually be done for significantly less money). The cost for this was more of an upgrade fee, sold the 980 GTX for $320 (USD$) and picked up two new 1070 GTX's for a total of $1,100, taxes in. So that was the start-up cost $1,100, less $400 if you count the resale. Not bad, $700 to get up and running. - I was actually up and running with a small test on the 980 GTX for a proof of concept before shelling out for new GPUs, but the production rate was just too low.

Now, let's look at the running costs, Electricity. Of course this expense will vary depending on your local power-flavor's price, here we are paying $0.07 USD per KWh. I've been using a power consumption meter to monitor the usage and help keep track of costs as well as to know the system Power specs, listed below for the last 75 days of operation, since mining began.

Power Consumption Digital Meter Watts Cost Volts Amps
Power Consumption Digital Meter
Total Energy Cost So far:     $57.58
  • Operating Days, 75
  • Operating Cost per Day, $0.77 per Day.
  • Total Energy Consumption to Date (KWh), 800.49
  • Average Energy per Day (KWh), 10.67
  • Average Energy per Hour (Watts), 445
  • Voltage (V), 117.78
  • Frequency (Hz), 60
  • Amperage (A), 4.47
  • Power Factor, 0.98
  • Peak High Draw (Watts), 653
Since Electricity costs scale with your operation, it's important to keep in mind this is for two 1070 GTX cards on a very overpowered system. it's not far off the mark though to say the rate per GPU would be near 200-220 Watts per hour or near $0.0155 per hour, a Penny and a half.

That covers the cost side of the equation, now let's take a look at the Earnings side.

Earning Ether by mining is a function of 2 things:
  1. The hash-rate of your GPUs and mining rig.
  2. The difficulty of mining the blocks.
So what kind of Hash-Rate can you expect for a 1070 GTX? Well I actually tested this extensively and the baseline hashing power you'll get from a fresh out of the box MSI Gaming X 8G 1070 GTX will be around 25-27 MH/s. If you overclock it and have the memory clock running up to 8800 MHz you could expect 29-30 MH/s, if you are lucky enough to have a card with Samsung memory your card could hit 9000+ MHz and get into the 32 MH/s region of power.
Graph showing Ethereum Hasing Rate Power for 1070 GTX and 980 GTX
Ethereum Hasing Rate Power for 1070 GTX and 980 GTX

That's the good news, getting the power is pretty efficient in terms of an electrical cost to mining productivity ratio, and it scales well if you have a dedicated low power mobo/cpu and run up to 6 GPUs per motherboard, from there it's only linear scalability.

The bad news is that the Difficulty of mining the blocks is completely outside of your control, and is rising every day. In the future, more difficulty will bring output to a virtual crawl - When this rig started mining 75 days ago the average block time on ethstats.net was around 14 seconds, today it's 24 seconds. - which is why, everyone is always asking "How long 'till ROI?" - the answer is IT DEPENDS!

Ethereum Average BlockTime Chart 2017 Etherscan.io
Ethereum Average BlockTime Chart 2017, from Etherscan.io

R.O.I. depends on the price of Ether and that really is the whole point, you cannot possibly predict what the price will be, whether or not ETH will be valuable at all ten years, one year or even one day down the road. Anything could happen, as it often does, which might dramatically change the value. The way I see it though, if you're in on ETH, you better be in it for the long haul because everything else is just gambling and posturing. Being in ETH for the long hodl means you believe in the underlying infrastructure, and if you believe in that, then you know the price today is irrelevant.



There are still changes to come, what will Ether be worth when Proof of Stake arrives. You mine, buy and hold ETH to act as a sort of hedge against either scenario going too far in one direction, if the price goes very high quickly, then it's a good thing you have mining gear that you paid a fixed price for. Really, ETH is, by the very definition of the word, an Asset, we don't know how big the future will be for that Asset, but we definitely believe it will be bigger in the future than it is right now, ETH has formidable growth potential.

How-ever, if you're a skeptic, and would rather take the money and run, we can look at what this all translates to for bottom line NET Profit ($). This all comes down to the Difficulty vs reward, over the last 75 days the average difficulty has risen 187% from 769 TH to 2,204 TH, which explains why the mining payouts are getting further apart and less frequent. So I'm 'Not Making as much Money as I used to'...

Ethereum Block Difficulty Growth Chart from Etherscan.io 2017
Ethereum Block Difficulty Growth Chart, from Etherscan.io 2017

Plotting the data from etherscan.io and extrapolating from the last 75 days, we could easily see a block difficulty of 6,000 TH by then. This doesn't look like good news at all for mining profits...


Ethereum Block Difficulty Growth Projection forward 2017
Ethereum Block Difficulty Growth Projection forward 2017

During these 75 days, this mining rig earned a total of 1.259 ETH via Nanopool Mining Pool. If the next 75 days follow the predicted difficulty growth, we could expect to see much less than what we made in the first 75 days. In truth, my intuition says the growth will be even faster than the exponential curve and even harsher for miners - but that's OK! Because it helps with inflation, to increase the value overall in the long run. This is supposed to happen.

So how would I answer the Question: "If I've made 1.26 ETH in 75 days, how much more will I make in another 75 days?"

No problem right, because thankfully the mining pool offers a dirty calc-u-later table that shows me "experimental" forecasts...   :|    Most people already know these tables don't factor in difficulty changes so it's a pretty useless table. Also, I've found the values to be off the mark quite a lot. When doing analysis, sometimes you would find the data you're trying to analyze isn't well behaved, this happens in the real world.
Nanopool Ethereum Mining Calculator
Nanopool Ethereum Mining Calculator

Assuming all other things are constant, such as the mining pool payout remains the same, the share ratio the same, the fees the same, the efficiency of the code etc... then to answer this question I look for a proxy to the data I want, but can't use. In this case, I like the proxy of "Number of Days Since Last Payout", because the payouts are always fixed and controllable by me to occur at 0.2 ETH, and the data in this example is smooth because my rig typically has 98% up time and that's something that also is unlikely to change. Which means if everything else stays the same, I will observe a pattern in how many days it has been taking me to earn equal payouts, and should be able to use that data to estimate my future payouts - but what about the difficulty change?

Ah, that's baked in to the analysis already because the growth delay rate of the payout frequency already includes factors that depend on the difficulty, so I don't need to go crazy trying to model future block difficulty rates when I can just measure and extrapolate the piece of data I'm most interested in. The Payout Frequency. The one Caveat here is that if there is a difficulty bomb that dramatically slows production, then the model will be off, but we can't know the future until it happens, so this is the best approximation I think we'll be able to get, given the data available now.

First, set up an X-Y Scatter plot, on the X-Axis goes the Independent Variable, in our case The Number of Days in Mining Operation, on the Y-Axis we put the Number of Days Since Last Payout. We should expect to see an exponential growth curve because we know as difficulty increases it's going to take us more and more time to get that 0.2 ETH payout.

Ethereum Mining Payout Frequency Projection
Ethereum Mining Payout Frequency Projection

The curve fits with an R-Squared of 0.984, and gives the equation Y = 7.2121e^(0.012x), where X is the Number of Days in Mining Operation and Y is the Number of Days since Last Payout.

Ethereum Payout Frequency Projection with Difficulty Factored in

If we plug in an estimate for the next point to be approximately 19 days after the 75th day, the equation outputs the next point '22 days since last payout'. This equation can be used to predict as far as you like, but I doubt it'll be very accurate beyond 75 days anyway, since we only have a low number of data points to work with. But for now, I am satisfied that this will very likely be my yield for the next 75 days, an additional 0.6166 ETH, bringing my total estimated mined Ether to 1.875 ETH for 150 Days of Mining using two 1070 GTXs. What does that mean in Dollars though?

Ethereum Historical Price Chart 2017
Now, translating ETH into Dollars is a whole other can of worms because settling out your coins into fiat value is all about timing, and really depends on when you execute your sells. So let's look at a few scenarios, what if you sell your ETH at the price of:

  1. Theoretical Fixed ETH High Price over 75 days
  2. Theoretical Fixed ETH Average Price over 75 days
  3. Theoretical Fixed ETH Low Price over 75 days
  4. Sell your ETH immediately upon Payout Receipt because you have trust issues.
  5. You have a Crystal Ball and manage to hold your ETH until the highest point of what you're holding to sell at the exact right moments. Basically you had perfect timing.



The first three scenario's are shown straight forward in the table below, we're basically not at the break-even point for any price of ETH that has occurred so far except for the theoretical high price. Theoretical because that price occurred a few days into mining and we can't sell coins we don't own yet, the Arrow of Time only goes one-way. Today's price is $340 though, so we aren't far off from the high were we to liquidate right now, we would receive about $428 USD for the 1.259 ETH we've mined. which put's us ($428 - $700) = $272 away from break-even, but - the GPUs still have resale value right now and could be sold to recoup costs. We would need an ETH price of ~$586 to be at break-even with 1.259 ETH.

Ethereum Mining Profit Loss Table Projection


To answer point #4, we simply need to check the price of ETH at each payout and sum the individual 'would-be' sell orders. Taking any arbitrary price within each day combined with the payout amount, the summed total would be $345.42 USD, which would be $358 away from break-even. Skepticism has a cost.

What if I sold Ethereum as soon as I got Payout?
What if I sold Ethereum as soon as I got Payout?


To answer point #5, What if you had a crystal ball? Take a look at the chart below showing Ethereum price in USD for the time period in question. If you knew the price today was coming, you never would've sold at any point historically, - except perhaps that 0.05 ETH on day 3 for $390. -Because you will have been waiting for this weeks' price, one of the higher prices recently, but there in lies the point, in the real world, you either believe in something, or you don't. If you're in on ETH, I suggest you go long, Long, and Hard on ETH as much as you can. When it reaches a value you feel comfortable with, perhaps take out a small % and let the rest go for a while longer, just like averaging the buys, you can average the sells. The only caveat to this, is if you know something we don't know...  ಠ_ಠ

2017 Price of ETH Ethereum to USD


The point is, no matter which why you slice it, our R.O.I. and Profit is tied to the Price of ETH, and the more ETH we're holding the more leveraged we become. Leverage is an interesting property because it allows smaller things to exert bigger forces. But just like real life, if things slip and start to go the wrong way, and you're leveraged when things go bad, they go much worse depending on the degree of leverage now acting against you, instead of for you.

If the price goes around $400, we should be at break-even in the next 75 days, so a total of 150 days to break-even IF the price is at $400, which isn't unreasonable. Everything after that is profit, minus the electrical cost, which account for such a small %. So far, Mining Ethereum is worth it, but it takes Patience to see the value, and Time to let the value grow, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Good Hodling, and happy mining,

Will update this post in 75 days and see how close the prediction was.
Check back then,

Comments

  1. Nice analysis, really enjoyed reading it. I wish the promised dump of GPUs by disaffected miners flooding the market would occur, so I could buy some cheap 1070s :-)

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    Replies
    1. I would be right there with you, I am often browsing Craigs/Kijiji/eBay for any 1070's below a certain price. I saw one that came up for sale for $500 CAD$, it was gone within the hour, people are still IN, they're just not hyping it as much as they did when we were at $535 CAD/ETH, Thanks for the comments on the analysis.

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  2. Nice read but you don't seem to be very up to speed with what is coming RE the difficulty. Difficulty is rising exponentially right now due to Ice Age or the 'Difficulty Bomb'. Yes, the blocks are 24.5 secs now and will increase to about 31 secs on September 24th.

    What you haven't taken into consideration is that when Metropolis Byzantium is released (they are aiming for Sept 24th but likely it will be in late October), the difficulty bomb will be delayed by 1.5 years. This means block times will return back to 14secs however they will reduce issuance to 3 ETH instead of 5 ETH. This still means that after that update, we will earn slightly more ETH than we do right now - 5 ETH at 24.5sec = 12.24 ETH per min compared to 3 ETH at 14sec = 12.85 ETH per min or a 5% increase.

    Once this happens, the difficulty charts you are looking at won't really matter, the only thing that will effect mining difficulty will be Network Hashrate which should pretty much then equate to block difficulty. This will likely continue to rise at a rate of 15% - 20% per month that we have seen in August and September but may climb a bit more if the price shoots up like expected after the Issuance Reduction.

    A decrease in earnings of 15% - 20% per month is significantly better than what you have predicted in your models :)

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    Replies
    1. @Pspsully Those are solid points, and I appreciate you spelling that out in detail, I might take a copy/paste of your comment and paste it in the actual article, I knew "about" the terms Ice-Age, Metropolis, but didn't fully understand the scope of the effect it's having. It'll be interesting to come back and see how far off the mark the estimate was, I felt the exponential projection I made at the time was conservative, so perhaps I'll end up close to reality.

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  3. Great article! Another point I'd like to shed some light on is that if the amount of money spent on buying the hardware would have been spent directly on buying ether, that would result into much more ether than the mining rig would probably ever mine considering exponential increase in difficulty.

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