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Efficiency study says gaming PCs use $10 billion in energy every year

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Father / son team Evan and Nathaniel Mills (opens in new tab) has published a study entitled ‘Taming the Energy Use of Gaming Computers’ in the journal Energy Efficiency. The study looks into the energy usage of gaming PCs, and it turns out, they use a lot. The study says that with some adjustments, savings of an estimated $18 billion per year could be made globally by 2020.

Of course, it’s common knowledge that gaming PCs are more power hungry than regular desktops and even gaming consoles. According to the study, gaming PCs represent 2.5 percent of the global PC equipment base (including consoles), while using 21 percent of the power (75 TWh/year which equates to $10 billion). He also adds that the number of people using more high-end equipment is growing. Mills estimated that the typical gaming computer, including a display, uses approximately 1400 kWh/year, which is six times a standard PC, and ten times a games console.

Mills’ solution to the power problem? Use more efficient components. We knew this already, of course—and PC components do trend towards greater efficiency over time. It seems like an obvious conclusion, but the study goes into some of the numbers. The Mills team tested a number of PSUs, CPUs, GPUs, motherboards, displays, laptops, and RAM, to see how efficient they were. One test was done using a base system, with a number of improved components incrementally added. It showed that efficiency could be significantly increased, with only a minor drop in performance.


More importantly, Mills wants better regulation. He notes that there are regulatory ratings for components which have made a difference since being introduced, however they are only voluntary and, aside from 80Plus (opens in new tab) used for power supplies, are not standardized. An example Mills gave was one where an identical motherboard was rated at 62W, 92W, and 98W by three separate websites. Mills found that “nameplate power estimates for the key components in gaming computers significantly exceed power use in practice (on the order of 50 percent) and their direct use can thus yield overestimates of energy use.”

In the study, Mills states that “to enable improved energy analyses as well as better consumer decision making, standardized methodologies should be developed to more rigorously and consistently benchmark and normalize energy use and peak power demand of computers as well as that for specific games.”

While Mills claims that it can be hard to find numbers on efficiency, there are places out there which will give you the details. PC Part Picker (opens in new tab) tracks power requirements for selected components, for example, helping you pick out a reasonable power supply for your rig.

That said, information could indeed be made more readily available. Since a good chunk of people who use high-end PCs actually build them themselves, Mills notes that they have an opportunity to attain better efficiencies than can usually be found on the market with a little research.

He also adds that there are proposed policies for household electronics (opens in new tab) and game consoles that could be applied to gaming PCs. Mills concludes that component efficiencies will continue to improve over time, we just need better policies to ensure everyone knows about it.

Did you use resources online to consider the energy efficiency of your rig while you were planning your build, or just go for the biggest, baddest components you could find?