How Much Energy Do Gaming Computers Use? Here Are the Facts

Hardware

It’s something that may not cross all gamer’s minds when asking them about their gaming setup. But knowing how much power a gaming computer uses can help you plan your decisions more wisely when choosing certain components.

Ask your friends to reveal the top five devices that consume the most electricity in their households; chances are, you’ll hear microwave ovens, washing machines, refrigerators, and HVAC systems as some of the common answers.

They’ll almost certainly leave out their PC. However, your typical PC can use a bulk of your power tokens, but does this hold for a gaming computer?

A gaming computer requires somewhere between 300 – 500 watts per hour to operate. This translates to up to 1400 kWh annually and is six times higher than a laptop’s power usage. However, these figures vary, depending on the gaming PC features, such as the installed hardware and software and usage frequency.

Just because a gaming PC uses more electricity, that doesn’t mean you need to stop practicing for that upcoming tournament or give up on another shot at Call of Duty.

Read on for more information on the amount of power your gaming PC uses, whether it requires more electricity than other types, and how to keep your power usage at a minimum!

man checking power meter to take a reading

How much energy does a gaming PC use per hour?

The amount of power your typical PC consumes depends on several factors, like its hardware, installed software, and how often you use it. For example, a PC that’s always on and mining cryptocurrency will require more power than one that’s turned on once daily and used for browsing or checking emails.

Meanwhile, a PC rigged with energy-efficient gear and settings reduces power consumption without compromising performance. For example, one with a 10TB hard disk drive (HDD) consumes up to four times more watts than a similar computer with a solid-state drive (SSD) of equal size.

Similarly, a bigger RAM, a higher number of cores, having an integrated video card, and a lower-frequency graphics card reduce the amount of power your PC uses.

Gaming is one of the common energy-intensive uses of PCs. According to this MakeUseOf article, your gaming PC comes with more advanced hardware than a typical PC.

For instance, a gaming PC usually comes with a more powerful GPU, which requires more electricity to operate. Because of that, its energy consumption is significantly higher.  

With that in mind, an average gaming PC requires 300 to 500 watts per hour. This consumption increases tremendously, up to 600 watts or more when playing VR games.

Do gaming computers use more electricity?

plugging in power wall socket

As we hinted at earlier, a gaming computer requires more energy to run. According to a report by the Energy Saving Trust, your gaming PC requires almost six times as much energy as your laptop. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

According to Greening the Beast — an initiative by Nathan Mills, a retired builder of high-end desktops, and Evans Mills, a former Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a program under the US Department of Energy — the typical gaming PC consumes about 1400 kWh of electricity annually.

This amount of energy can power up to three refrigerators, six conventional desktop computers, or ten gaming consoles!

Of course, these numbers are pretty staggering.

Here’s more: Although gaming computers represent about 2.5% of the globally installed PC equipment database, they consume up to 75 billion kWh of electricity annually worldwide. This translates to 20% of the total energy needed to run a gaming console, notebook, and desktop computer for one year.

Besides, this consumption level requires up to $10 billion in energy expenditure, which is the average cost of running 25 electric power plants.

Which PC parts use the most power?

Depending on their target users, PCs come with different features that determine their performance and power requirements.

Do you own a high-performance gaming PC with multiple graphics cards (GPUs)? If so, your computer will require more power than a low-wattage one with fewer GPUs.

Similarly, your PC’s processor consumes a lot of energy. According to Chron, the microprocessor chip performs billions of calculations per second. As a result, it requires a substantial amount of power and uses the highest amount of electricity in a computer.

Additionally, your PC’s RAM, fans, case lighting, hard disk drives, solid-state drives, and optical drives require power to operate, although in smaller amounts. Peripherals — like mice, keyboards, and speakers — also use some of the power.

However, there’s no need to worry about the amount of electricity needed to power peripheral devices since their average consumption is less than 0.5 watts.

The table below summarizes the typical amount of power needed by the primary components of a gaming computer.

ComponentPower required
The central processing unit (CPU)55 – 150 watts
Graphics card (GPU)25 – 350 watts
Hard disk drive0.7  – 9 watts
Solid-state drive0.6 – 3 watts
RAM2 – 5.5 watts
Case fans0.6 – 3 watts
Optical drive15 – 27 watts

The motherboard and the power supply unit draw power and pass it on to the other components. Their typical consumptions are:

  • Motherboard: 25 – 100 watts
  • Power supply unit: 130 – 600 watts

Why your PC consumes more power than expected

In some cases, you may discover your gaming PC uses more power than discussed above. That could be due to several reasons. The most common culprits are aging or deterioration with time.

If you’ve used your PC for some time and learned it’s pulling more current before, you should watch out for the following:

Outdated tech

A case in point is using a CRT monitor. Contrary to expectations, connecting a gaming PC to a CRT monitor produces stunning results, according to Eurogamer. However, the trade-off is higher energy consumption. A CRT monitor draws more current than a comparable LED or LCD screen.

Poor quality parts

Sometimes, manufacturers use lower-quality components to cut their operational costs. For instance, they may use thermal pastes that don’t hold up well in the long term.

As the paste degrades, your PC may run hotter, leading to throttling and forced cooling, demanding more energy.

Software

Your gaming PC may break a sweat running some software, including your favorite games. For example, your computer may require up to 120 watts per hour when running Rocket League.

In contrast, it may use up to 330 watts per hour to run Hunt Showdown, which is more demanding.

Dust

Dust is a significant threat to your PC. Once it accumulates on the heat sink, it causes your computer to overheat. In turn, the overheating forces your PC to run slower to avoid damage while the cooling fan starts to run harder and longer, drawing even more energy.

To clean dust from your PC and prevent it from increasing your electricity bills, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your PC and unplug it from the power socket. To be safe, unplug all components and electrical devices nearby.
  2. Move the computer to a well-ventilated location. This could be near an open door or window. After that, remove the case’s side and front panels (if applicable).
  3. Using a can of compressed air or lint-free cloth, clean the dust from the filters and around the case’s base. Also, clean the CPU and GPU cooler.
  4. Use a vacuum cleaner to clear any dust or dirt that lands on the floor. However, to avoid static damage, don’t use it directly on the case’s interior.

Alternatively, you may follow the steps described in this video:

Caution: You should wear a respirator or dust mask to avoid inhaling any of the dirt and dust that come from your PC’s case.

How do you know your gaming PC’s energy consumption?

Theoretically, it’s hard to put a number on the amount of power your gaming PC requires by just looking at its specs.

To determine your device’s electrical consumption, you need critical information on all the components that require power, including the video cards, CPU, and GPU, to mention a few.

Armed with this information, you can consult an expert or an online calculator. Chances are, the more information you have, the more accurate the feedback you’ll get from either.

Alternatively, you can use a power meter to check your PC’s power consumption. To use this method, plug the meter in a wall outlet and then your computer into the meter.

This will enable you to determine how much electricity your PC consumes when running games, idle, or both.

If you need a power meter, we recommend that you try the Fayleeko Meter from Amazon. It comes with a large backlit screen for easy reading in dark corners and awkward angles.

Its lights turn off after a minute to save power. With an average error of only 3% in the worst-case scenario, this meter is arguably the best on the market.

What is thermal design power?

hot semiconductor

If you’ve come across the term thermal design power (TDP) before landing on this page, chances are you may be wondering what it means. Some bloggers advise that you check your PC’s TDP to determine its power usage.

Simply put, thermal design power means the amount of heat generated by a device, which a cooling system must remove for the device to operate as designed. Like electricity, it’s measured in watts.

It’s sometimes used as a stand-in for power draw since the two are often equal across different appliances. However, we consider it a vague approach to determining your PC’s power usage. That’s because it’s based on the maximum heat your PC produces in “real-world” applications.

The term “real-world” raises more questions than answers, like what are these “real-world” applications? How do you determine what is “real” when calculating the TDP?

Therefore, we find it easier to use an online calculator, consult an expert, or connect a PC to a power meter to obtain accurate results on a system’s power consumption.

However, that doesn’t mean we’ve discarded the TDP as a worthless measure. On the contrary, it’s a very critical measure. Notably, you can use it to identify the best cooling system your gaming PC needs.

Say your curated game collection relies heavily on the processor. If that’s the case, your system’s TDP will be pretty high.  

Therefore, we recommend that you use this Noctua NF-S12B Cooling Fan from Amazon. This high-performance cooling system is built to last, as evidenced by its self-stabilizing, oil pressure bearings that move more air at mid-range speeds.

It also features beveled blade tips that reduce rotor-stator interaction for quiet operation. In a nutshell, this system’s quality is impeccable!

What are the different PC power modes?

There are several ways to reduce the amount of power your gaming PC uses, as we’ll describe shortly. Before that, let us explain the two settings you can use to control power usage: Sleep and Hibernate 

In brief, the Sleep mode suspends some of your computer’s operations, putting it in a low-power use state. For instance, it reduces the power consumed by the display, peripherals, and storage.

Your PC uses the RAM to save currently open games, browsers, or documents so that you don’t lose anything.

The Hibernate mode works similarly, although it also cuts the power supply to The RAM. Instead of saving the data on the computer’s RAM, it uses storage.

Therefore, the PC behaves as if you have turned it off. However, it still remembers what you were doing before putting it into the Hibernate mode.

When should one use each mode, given the similarities?

Generally, it’s better to use the Sleep mode when you’re taking a short break from your PC. On the other hand, the Hibernate function is a more practical choice if you want to take a break overnight.

Ways to reduce your gaming PC’s power usage

removing power symbol on black board symbolizing power reduction

Given the high amount of electricity your gaming computer uses, you may be interested in knowing how to reduce that.

To save you the hassle of looking for that information elsewhere, we’ve compiled some of the most experienced gamers’ recommendations.

To do that, you should:

1. Unplug External Devices

External devices increase your PC’s consumption. This occurs when idle – that connected standby hard drive draws up some power from your unit.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to turn off and disconnect all external devices — including speakers, printers, and hard drives — from your PC when not in use.

2. Use an energy-efficient monitor

Aiming to reduce your PC’s power usage while simultaneously using a CRT monitor is counterproductive. Instead of holding on to it, you should switch to an LCD screen.

As mentioned earlier, an LCD screen requires only 30 watts. On the contrary, your CRT screen uses 100 watts, which is more than triple that of an LCD.

3. Maximize the use of sleep and hibernate functions

Having gained some insights into these functions’ ins and outs, we suggest you try to get the most out of them.

Turning your PC off and on after one hour is counterproductive to any effort to minimize power consumption. Instead, you can set it to sleep as you think of a way to get a leg up on the competition if you’re in a tournament.

4. Close background programs

Running background programs occupy more RAM and add your computer’s processor more work. As a result, they increase the amount of energy your PC requires while also making it heat up faster.

Therefore, it’s critical to determine which tasks are running by checking the Task Manager and exiting the background programs you’re not currently using. 

5. Upgrade to more energy-efficient components

PC parts manufacturers — such as Nvidia, Asus, and AMD — regularly release upgraded versions. Often, these newer parts require less energy than the previous versions. Therefore, we recommend that you regularly check for upgrades and determine if they suit your gaming needs.

6. Upgrade your storage from HDD to SSD

Upgrading from an HDD to an SSD is another method of reducing your PC’s power usage. A poorly performing, 1 TB HDD can draw up to 10 watts, while an SSD with similar features draws as little as 2.6 watts, so the latter is a better bargain.

If you want to try this method and need an SSD that offers a blend of value, endurance, and speed, we recommend the Samsung 870 EVO from Amazon.

This SSD has a remarkable performance. That’s clear in its read speed of up to 560 megabits per second and a write speed of up to 530 megabits per second. 

The drive features a 128-layer V-NAND for increased durability. Most importantly, its peak power consumption is only 2.58 watts.

For more tips on how to reduce your PC’s power consumption, watch the video below:

Bottom Line

Although your gaming PC consumes more electricity than most appliances, you shouldn’t give up on your newfound hobby.

Conversely, if you’re an experienced, professional gamer, that should motivate you to plan on how to reduce your electricity expenses.

To minimize your PC’s power consumption, you should:

  • Unplug external devices. Disconnect all idle speakers, disk drive from your PC and switch them off.
  • Use an energy-efficient monitor. This means letting go of that CRT monitor.
  • Use Sleep or Hibernate features. This depends on how long the PC will stay idle.

Exit all background programs. This reduces the processor’s work.

From here, I encourage you to read my other blog post, how to adjust your computer’s energy consumption.