Are Video Games Draining My Power Bill?

expensive power billsElectricity costs continue to rise as Americans use more and more high-tech gadgets. From smartphones to laptops, all these devices need to be plugged in sooner or later.

Video games, however, come in a number of different forms.

There are handheld systems, gaming PCs, consoles, and games that can be played on phones and tablets. Does playing these games eat up enough energy to make a significant difference on an electricity bill?

The answer will depend on the type of gaming system being used.

[Recommended read: How to Enjoy Computer Games More Cheaply]

Handhelds and Phone Games are the Cheapest

As far as energy consumption, these game systems cost the least. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the display screen is smaller, so less energy is needed to produce the images. Second, the games offered for handhelds and phones are generally not the powerhouses available for other systems. For example, Crysis 3, which takes a lot of power to run, is only available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PC. Finally, when the games are not being played, these devices usually get completely turned off, with the exception of cell phones.

PCs Can Offer Decent Energy Savings

Depending on a number of factors, a desktop computer can be a relatively energy-efficient way to play video games. Much will depend on the power supply the computer uses. Fortunately, there is a rating system in place to let consumers know how efficient power supplies are. The best power supplies are rated at 80 Plus Platinum, meaning they are 89% efficient when running at full load. The other ratings, which progress downward by about two percent in efficiency per rating, are 80 Plus Gold, 80 Plus Silver, 80 Plus Bronze, and 80 Plus.

By selecting a computer with an efficient power supply, gaming is not such a terrible strain on electricity resources as it could be. Of course, common sense also plays a role in this. Shutting down a computer when not in use, selecting energy efficient monitors and components, and taking a break every once in a while will all help power consumption remain a minor issue when using a PC.

Consoles and the End of the World?

Many dire claims have popped up in the media about how video game playing uses as much energy as the city of San Diego, how consoles use $1.24 billion dollars while in idle mode, and how consoles are generally quite inefficient.

While it is true that consoles, with the exception of the Nintendo Wii, consume a lot of power, simply turning off the system when not in use makes a big difference. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 continue to use a lot of power while in idle mode, and this can translate to higher electric bills.

However, while it is certainly a good idea to turn off a console while not in use, don’t expect to save enough to purchase that new Rolls Royce. The savings will, depending on the overall energy consumption of a given house, be noticeable but not extreme. Over time these small savings do add up, so make sure to power down that console when not playing.

[Image credit: Dean Ashton, Flickr]


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