If you leave your gaming PC running all day, consider the costs and benefits of purchasing an energy-efficient power supply.
Better energy efficiency and quality mean not only increased longevity for your components but also significant money savings in the long-run.
In this post, I'll take you through just how much you can save, and then show you my favorite power supplies by budget.
Using an Efficient Power Supply From Day 1:
Your power supply takes the AC power from your wall and converts into DC voltage that your computer's electronic components use. Here are a few good reasons to get a good power supply upfront when building a gaming PC.
An 80 Plus Certified Efficient Power Supply is a Good Idea:
Power Supply Efficiency is basically the amount of power your power supply can convert from the wall. For example, if you have a power supply that pulls 500 watts from the wall while your PC uses 400 watts, then your PSU would be 80% efficient. I'll show you just how much you more you can save with this efficiency below.
How Power Supplies are graded:
80 PLUS power supplies are tested at 20%, 50%, and 100% in order to see how they maintain their efficiency at different loads. Efficiency levels are graded from standard, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. A standard 80 PLUS PSU simply needs to achieve 80% efficiency at 20%, 50%, and a 100% while a platinum PSU, for example, would need to achieve 90%, 92%, and 89% at these same three loads.
Disadvantages of Using an Inefficient Power Supply:
- Your power supply has to pull more power from the wall at all times in order to achieve the same usable power. This leads to a higher electricity bill.
- They generate additional heat. Keeping your computer's components cool helps them to perform at a higher level and last longer. Since wasted power is dissipated as heat, a more efficient PSU leads to less heat in your case and therefore cooler components.
- A Higher power bill. Just how much can an average gamer save by switching to an efficient power supply? While that depends on the amount of time that the average gamer plays and the amount of power which his rig needs here's a basic calculation based on what the additional power would cost, over time, in California. Keep in mind that this varies greatly by state. For example this chart shows that a kWH in Idaho is 8 cents while a kWh in California was 15.2 cents in 2011. Current costs showed that the average in 2020 was 19.9 cents.
How Much Does It Cost to Run Your PC?
It's a lot more than you probably think:
Let's take a 90% average efficiency power supply vs. a 70% efficiency PSU and assume that your PC needs an average of 400 watts of power. The typical average is around 200 Wh; however, I'm assuming you're a gamer with an actively running power supply. Also, let's assume that your computer is used 8 hours a day. How much would you save in a year by having a more efficient power supply?
First, let's see what each one would cost.
90% Vs. 70% Efficiency for a High-End Rig:
The 90% efficient power supply would need to draw 444.44 watts in order to achieve the 400 watts of power your computer needs on average. Converting that to kWh you'd have a total of 3.552 kWh for one day or 1296.48 kWh per year. If you live in California ($0.199 / kWh), then the cost of running your rig at this rate would be $251.38.
For the 70% Efficient power supply, you'd need to draw 571.43 watts in order to achieve the average of 400 watts your computer needs or a total of 4.571 kWh in an 8 hour day. In a year this would be 1668.42 kWh for a total of $332.02.
By having a higher level efficiency you'd save $80.64 in one year! So, the longer you leave your rig running, the more efficiency you should seek. Keep in mind that this calculation was done based on a computer running at a high level for 8 hours a day the entire year in California. The calculation for you might change considerably if you live in another state or have your computer in idle much of that time.
Should You Purchase a Power Supply with More Than What You Need?
I see people talk all the time about how everyone purchases a power supply far in excess of their needs and why this is a total waste. This is not entirely true. A PSU operates most efficiently between 40% to 60%.
At 220v some people choose to purchase a larger power supply to simply gain the additional efficiency and have less heat dissipation. *Keep in mind that the power required to operate at 50% is a lot less than what most think!
With all of this being said, if you purchase a highly efficient power supply, it'll likely be efficient across many capacities.
How to Calculate Your Power Supply Needs:
The easiest way to calculate your power supply needs is to use a power supply calculator. I'd recommend you use Cooler Master's or just plug everything into PCpartpicker.
Power Supply Capacitors:
Capacitors can wear out over time. Japanese capacitors have a better reputation because of the strict testing which is placed upon them. That being said you generally pay a premium for the potential better quality you receive.
Choosing a Power Supply for Your Needs:
You'll have to decide whether it's worth it for you to pay extra for a power supply that will potentially last longer and be more energy efficient. With 5 year warranties available even on inexpensive 80 Plus power supplies, I'd personally rather go with something that is inexpensive that I can potentially replace after 5 years.
From $30 to $45
I'm not going to recommend just one power supply in this category as your purchase will greatly depend upon available rebates. Get a good rebate and you'll get a decent quality bronze certified power supply with 400 to 500 watts for around $25 to $35.
If you can't find a decent power supply at this price point, I'd honestly put more towards your budget. In other words, avoid the cheap power supplies of the world and you'll save money over time in hardware. In addition, you'll save money in energy efficiency.
Thermaltake Smart Series
Available in 430W to 700W capacities the Thermaltake Smart series of power supplies are great for any budget system. They're 80 PLUS certified and come with decent components for the price you pay.
In 2021, they've become one of the best buys with the 500W version coming in under $50 and 400W version under $40.
It's not modular, so you'll definitely want to do some cable management, but it does come with decent components with a mean time before failure of 100,000 hours. I've used it in the past and have yet to have any that have stopped on me. That doesn't mean it's perfect and occasionally you get a dud. That's true of all hardware. However, it's good for the price and it comes with a 5-year warranty.
EVGA 430W and 500W Power Supply
If there's one power supply that is typically a good buy in the $40 price range, it's the EVGA 430 W1. EVGA has become the major player in the PSU industry over the last few years. In the to $30 to 40 price range, I like their bronze certified 430 W1. It's certainly not a high-end model with quality Japanese capacitors; however, it does the job for budget systems. This model also includes a 500-watt version that's regularly on sale for just about the same price. Go for that option if you need the extra wattage.
In terms of noise, this model certainly isn't a winner. It's a bit noisy on your desk which may be annoying for some. That being said, if your gaming PC is on the floor, you're more than likely ok.
Overall, the EVGA 430 W1 80+ power supply is one of the options I like at this price range. If a better quality option is on rebate, I'll occasionally go for that instead. I recommend it for a low budget gaming PC build of around $500. Anything much more expensive than that and I'd recommend a higher-end model. That being said I occasionally go with something like this for a $750 gaming PC as well in order to allocate more towards my GPU.
Avoid EVGA's N1 Series
You might be tempted to go with EVGA's N1 series of power supplies. However, don't confuse these with the W1 series. These are not 80 PLUS efficient. In other words, for what costs you just a little bit less you'll be paying more for the power in your computer over time which seems like a terrible trade considering the price difference.
80 Plus Certification Poll
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between power supplies you can get in the $50 price range and the $25 price range. That might sound strange, but the reason for this is that the higher-end gold models rarely go on rebate while models in this price range regularly do.
However, if you are able to find something like EVGA's SuperNova series in this price range, we recommend you go with that rather than what's listed below.
If you're wanting a true step up, consider getting something in the under $75 price category. A good PSU at that price point would have quality capacitors, gold certification, and be from a reputable brand.
Corsair CX 550 and 650 Watt power supplies
Probably the most popular options in this price range are the Corsair CX 550/650 watt models. These are solid in terms of quality and price and should last you a long time. Corsair warranties their product for 5 years.
I've found these as cheap as $40 during the holiday season but you'll typically pay between $50 and $60.
The CX series is semi-modular which makes it a bit easier when you're trying to build under tight conditions.
Overall you get a good power supply with decent capacity from a well-known company on the cheap. There's a lot to like albeit there's even more so when it's on sale.
Rosewill ARC Series Power Supply
What you get at this price point is similar quality with additional capacity. One exception is the Rosewill's ARC series of power supplies which give you a good amount of bang for your buck.
The ARC uses a single strong 12V rail which is good for gaming systems. For capacity, it's available in capacities as low as 450 watts and as high as 750. If you're working in a tight space, consider one of the "M" versions of this power supply. These modular options add a clean and simple look to your system overall.
Perhaps the best part about the ARC is that it's nearly silent. It uses a quiet 120mm fan that's unnoticeable while typing at your desk.
Corsair RMX Series
Corsair's RMX Series carries capacities from 550 Watts to 1000 watts and ranges in price from $100-$240.
It's one of the most popular options for gamers in 2021 and definitely worth a look. The price reflects the Gold Certification and standard of quality you get. 100 percent Japanese capacitors, fully modular cables, and low noise are all a part of what you're purchasing.
In my opinion, this is a good place to start for many PC owners. If you can afford it, it'll save you money over time.
While many may complain of the Corsair name, the price and quality of this model are hard to ignore.
The $75 to $100 price range is the minimum I'd recommend for gaming computers in the $1,000 price range. Here you'll get something that should last 5 to ten years. In addition, you're likely to get a better warranty and better efficiency overall.
Considering that you're trying to keep your equipment safe along with saving some money, I'm surprised that more builders don't start here.
In terms of getting the best value for your money, there are several recommendations I'd make here. Yes, a good rebate on a good month can certainly change this and if you can go with a quality company like a Seagate for the same price as someone else, it's a no-brainer. However, the next power supply on this list is a tier 1 option that is almost always available at a reasonable price.
I've used EVGA's SuperNova series power supplies in a number of builds and continue to be impressed. It fits the mold for mid to upper range builds across the board. For capacity, it's available as low as 550W and as high as 1600W.
In terms of quality, it's top notch with Japanese capacitors, a ten-year warranty, and full modularity for cable management. It also looks fantastic. All the cables are braided and the paint job is impressive.
Overall, this would be a good power supply to go along with a new GTX 1070, GTX 1080, 1080 Ti, or even a multi-GPU build.
Another solid option in this price range would be the Seasonic SS-660XP2. With tier 1 quality and platinum efficiency, it's a good option for around $105 after rebate. In the past, it's received a PC Perspective Editor's choice awards and continues to shine in terms of quality. Capacity for this option goes up to 860w. If you go for that, it'll likely set you back an additional $50.
If you're spending this much, you're looking for high capacity and quality. I'll first point to the model I recommended for the $100 option in a higher capacity. The 1300W EVGA SuperNova G2 can be found for under $200, is fully modular, and even includes a ten-year warranty.
Any time a manufacturer gives that much faith in a product, you know the quality must be good. That quality goes beyond just paper stats. That being said, the G2 does have high-quality Japanese capacitors and is relatively quiet for its size. It also includes heavy-duty over voltage, under voltage, over current, over power, and short circuit protection.
Beyond this, I like Platinum models from Seasonic in the same price range. The Seasonic SS-1050XP3 power supply is a fantastic option. It's fully modular and from a trusted brand in the power supply industry.
In addition, runs without the fan most of the time. In other words, it's nearly silent. This is especially true in hybrid mode. For energy efficiency, it's platinum rated and thus one of the best you'll find. For design, the fully modular cables, black paint design, and grey painted words are all top notch.
Clearly, there are many more quality options in this price range to pick from. Still, these are the two options I prefer.
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- Best 1150 Gaming Motherboard and Intel CPU Combo 2020
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My Final Thoughts
Energy prices should continue to rise over the next decade. With that in mind if you want to run your rig all day you can either move to Idaho, attach a solar panel to your PC, or get a highly efficient power supply. Thoughts?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.