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PCs in California must meet energy efficiency thresholds starting in 2019

PC power supply in a case.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
New rules in California could see an increased usage in higher-efficiency power supplies for electronic devices, as manufacturers and retailers begin facing more stringent energy ratings for desktops and laptops. Focusing on idle, sleep, and off modes, rather than active usage, environmental groups believe this could cut PC power usage in the state by as much as a third.

Although anyone building a gaming PC may be very familiar with 80-Plus ratings for power supplies and the efficiency to be gained as you move through the precious metal ratings, they are far less common in a lot of off-the-shelf systems.

Although the California Energy Commission (CEC) doesn’t specifically state what efficiency levels are required in its public FAQ, it does suggest that only 10 percent of desktops sold in the state currently meet them. Monitors aren’t much better, with only 14 percent now hitting the required standards (thanks Ars).

Efficiency thresholds have been created for different types of systems and will be enforced on all retailers and manufacturers by January 1, 2019. When they come in to play, the CEC believes it will see a saving of around 2,332 GWh per year, which works out to some $373 million in utility bill savings.

While we are told that new desktops are expected to cost around $10 extra because of the efficiency improvements, they should save consumers around $40 over two years in energy bills and even more if used for longer.

With more than 70 percent of laptops said to already be hitting efficiency standards, some of the biggest energy savings could come from workstations and servers. There are 530,000 of the former, and 300,000 small-scale versions of the latter, both of which tend to have much greater uptimes than their consumer counterparts.

Enforcing new efficiency standards for this equipment when in idle and sleep states will help save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Standards for those enterprise-focused systems will come into play on January 1, 2018.

The only products listed which will be required to meet energy efficiency levels when being actively used are monitors. With just 14 percent of currently available displays already hitting those targets, making them more efficient could help cut the power needs for the state’s high-end electronics by reasonable margins, too.

Monitor standards will be enforced starting July 1, 2019, with a second tier of standards coming into play on January 1, 2021. new standards for “Tier 2” desktops will arrive later that year, on July 1, 2019.

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