PC gaming can chew up heaps of power — here's how to reduce your energy use and pay less

Shodan from the System Shock Remake
(Image credit: Nightdive Studios)

From ensuring your gaming PC’s core components are current to having the best headset, desk lighting and ergonomic chair, gaming can be an expensive hobby. Which is why finding areas that you can save money on, like your energy bill is a no-brainer.

According to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), the average electricity bill for a household in New South Wales during the 2019/20 financial year was AU$1,292. If you’re into PC gaming, chances are your bill is much higher than the average. Not only do gaming PCs consume up to ten times the energy of a regular laptop and desktop counterparts, you also have to factor in additional electricity-powered necessities you need while you’re gaming... like high refresh-rate screens, extra room cooling (at least in the summer months) and of course fancy RGB lighting.

The good news is you don’t have to await the sting of a high energy bill before you can act! Here are some top ways you can take control over your gaming energy usage to reduce your power bill—all without lowering your time spent gaming. 

Tweak your gaming setup for better power saving

Whether you’re gaming on a laptop or desktop PC, there are small hacks you can implement to reduce your energy consumption daily, starting with your choice of device. 

Gaming laptops use an average of 200 to 300 watts of electricity per hour to run games, while desktops can require from 450 to 1,000 watts, depending on their exact specifications. So if you’re tossing up between a laptop and a desktop for your next rig, and you're really serious about saving on electricity, you might want to opt for the laptop. 

If you’re gaming on a desktop, you’ll want to switch the device’s power settings to go into Sleep mode when you take a break from gaming. Of course, it’ll still be using electricity, but far less than if it were left switched on and idling. Leaving a game paused but running can also use up a great deal of power—so if you’re not actively playing, we’d strongly recommend quitting the game completely. 

If you really want to make a difference to your desktop’s consumption, purchasing a monitor with a high energy efficiency rating can also help—check your monitors settings for a dedicated Eco mode you can use. 

Other energy-efficient modifications you can make in your gaming room include switching to LED light bulbs, as these use around 75 percent less electricity than standard globes, and keeping the aircon or heating at a comfortable level of around 24 degrees. Each degree cooler or warmer can add up to 10 percent to your power bill. And if you’ve got a grunty gaming desktop, you mightn’t even need a heater on in winter!

Money money money.

(Image credit: Deviantart user Deniszizen)

Get yourself a better energy deal 

Just like you’d spend time researching the best gaming chair, the same level of commitment should also be applied to locking down a competitive energy deal. Last year Mozo’s energy price report revealed that depending on the distribution zone, the average Australian household could save AU$200 to AU$300 a year, just by switching to the cheapest offer in the market. 

If it’s been a while since you shopped around on energy plans, it’s essential to look beyond the tempting discounts or sign up bonuses many retailers offer new customers. Instead, consider whether you’d be able to sustain long term savings, like from a green energy plan. 

Mozo’s report found that the cheapest green energy plans offered better value than the average energy plan, with households in Sydney saving AU$166 annually alone. A green energy plan refers to electricity that is either sourced from renewable sources or that the retailer offers a carbon offsetting program for. So you’ll be able to do your bit for the planet and save a few bucks along the way.

Another area for cost saving on your electricity is that you might also want to consider a plan that features no exit fees or lock-in contracts, as you’ll have the freedom to move onto a better deal without the fuss. Now that you’ve got an extra few hundred bucks in your pocket, you can put it toward your gaming budget!

Ditch standby and other energy suckers

We’ve all got energy habits we’re not proud of, like taking long showers and forgetting to switch lights off, but leaving your appliances on standby could be the worst one of all. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, standby power consumption costs the average household almost AU$100 per year! 

Although there are things that will always need to be left ‘on’ like your fridge or Wi-Fi router, if you make an effort to ensure other appliances are switched off at the wall when you’re done using them (and if they’re not used for extended periods, pull out the plug too) you’ll be saving yourself dollars. This includes things like your kettle, toaster and you guessed it, your gaming PC.

While it might feel like a pain to do, keep in mind that simple changes like these could mean the difference between a plump or slender gaming budget.

Ceyda Erem is the lead energy writer at Australian financial comparison website mozo.com.au. She is passionate about helping people slash the cost of their power and other household bills, so they have more money to go towards the fun things in life. When she's not writing about the latest energy trends and money-saving hacks, you'll find her catching up on true crime podcasts.