If you’re putting a PC together, then researching the graphics card and CPU can be fun. You get to see what kind of framerate you’ll get in your favorite games and there is a more limited variety of parts available.
But when it comes to power supplies, choosing the right one can suddenly seem like an impossible task. Today, power supplies range in ‘power’ from 300W to 1300W (and yes, there are many outside of that range as well).
But a new proliferation of devices involve the 80 Plus certification logo. That means the power supply is energy efficient. But should you care? Does energy efficiency make a big difference in your power bill? Or should you just choose a power supply based on price?
What is the 80 Plus system and how does it work?
80 Plus is a certification program designed to reward power supply manufacturers who make their supplies energy efficient. Take a look at the chart below:
Basically, the 80 Plus program works by setting an energy efficiency level at 20% load, 50% load, and 100% load. In order for a supply to meet a gold efficiency standard, it needs to have at least 87% energy efficiency at the 20% and 100% levels as well as 90% efficiency at the 50% load level.
In case you haven’t already figured it out, the name ’80 Plus’ comes from the fact that, in order to receive an 80 Plus certification, power supply manufacturers need to achieve at least 80% efficiency at 20%, 50%, and 100% load levels. The ‘color’ or ‘medal’ rankings are just further rewards on top of that ranking.
Should you buy an 80 Plus-certified power supply?
ExtremeTech.com decided to compare the premium price consumers pay for 80 Plus power supplies and measure how long it would take to recoup the investment. The results were interesting:
-Bronze 80 Plus certification, on average, adds 4% to 20% to the list price of an 80 Plus unit.
-Gold adds 35% to 61% to the list price
-Platinum adds 90% to 100% to the list price
-The only time these numbers vary is in the high-wattage range of power supplies. For example, the 80 Plus 1200W PSU costs $229, but the Plus Gold and Plus Platinum are $259 and $332, respectively.
So is it worth it?
Sometimes, energy efficient power supplies are worth it. But in most cases, for the average consumer, they’re not worth it. Energy efficient power supplies just don’t make a lot of financial sense. Since even the most basic power supplies hover around 75-77% efficiency, it’s hard to justify the average consumer paying anywhere from 30% to 100% more for an energy efficient power supply that is only a few percentage points more efficient. You might save $10 to $30 over the course of a year on your power bill – and that’s if you use your PC quite a bit.
Sometimes, they do make sense
There are some circumstances where energy efficient power supplies do make a lot of sense. If you’re running a computer at heavy loads for long periods of time – like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, then an energy efficient power supply will recoup its costs several times over during the course of a year.
Even at an ‘idle’ load, which is far less than 100%, energy efficient power supplies appear to be worth it…if you’re running your computer 24 hours per day 325 days per year.
But here’s the thing with energy efficient power supplies: if you’re running your PC at idle 24/7/365, then you’re probably not interested in saving the environment or cutting back on the costs of power. So that’s why it’s tough to recommend energy efficient power supplies to the average PC user. Save $50 to $100 and opt for the average power supply solution.
The bottom line
Unless you’re running servers or leaving your computers to perform tasks all day, energy efficient power supplies generally aren’t worth it.