Gaming PC owners can help save the planet by tinkering with rigs

1 Sep 2015

Gaming PC owners are quick to berate their console-owning peers but, according to a new study, they could be sitting beside an untapped energy source that could save billions of dollars in energy.

The argument online over whether to own a gaming PC or console has been ever-present for over two decades now, with PC owners believing that their own curated systems are simply better than those manufactured for immediate use by a casual gamer.

Well now, according to the Berkeley Lab in California, it appears that gaming PCs are not only better for graphics, but their owner-designed platform could be significantly more energy efficient than its manufactured siblings.

The study, co-authored by researcher Evan Mills, analysed the aggregate global energy use of gaming PCs and estimated that, by changing settings and the PC’s components, they can be 75pc more efficient than a standard PC.

This, the study says, creates a potential saving of approximately US$18bn per year globally by the year 2020.

In energy terms, this equates to 120 terawatt hours (TWh) or, in more understandable terms, 40 500Mw power plants.

Gaming PC figures

Changes to a gaming PC’s hardware and their energy savings. Graph via Mills et al

Given these findings, it might come as no surprise that gaming PCs are very power-hungry beasts that, while only accounting for 2.5pc of all PC units, contribute 20pc of their entire energy use.

Describing gaming PC’s a “huge overlooked source of energy”, Mills said of their potential: “Your average gaming computer is like three refrigerators.

“When we use a computer to look at our email or tend to our Facebook pages, the processor isn’t working hard at all. But when you’re gaming, the processor is screaming. Plus, the power draw at that peak load is much higher and the amount of time spent in that mode is much greater than on a standard PC.”

By shopping smartly, Mills said, they can half their hourly energy consumption.

“The huge bottom line here is that gamers don’t have to sacrifice performance to save energy,” Mills said. “You can have your cake and eat it too. In fact, the efficient systems run cooler and quieter, both of which are desirable attributes among gamers.”

Mills’ son, Nathaniel, having been inspired by his dad’s study, has since gone on to create the website to help gamers find the most energy-efficient components for their gaming PC rigs.

Gamer at PC image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic