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How Much Electricity Does It Take to Power a PC? A Deep Dive Into the Costs

Powering a personal computer comes with an ongoing energy cost that many users don‘t consider when building or purchasing a new system. But with electricity prices varying hugely across the United States, it pays to understand just how much juice your PC might be sipping behind the scenes.

In this in-depth guide, we’ll break down the average electricity demands of typical PC configurations so you can better estimate your own daily, monthly and yearly energy usage and expenses.

Key Components That Impact a Computer‘s Power Draw

A PC‘s overall electricity appetite is determined by the sum power draw of all its internal and external components. Here are the main elements that impact energy usage the most:

CPU (Processor)

The CPU is instrumental in determining a computer‘s base power requirements. Most modern CPU models have standardized power ratings that let you know their TDP (thermal design power), measured in watts.

For example, AMD‘s popular Ryzen 5 5600X desktop processor has a TDP of 65W, while Intel’s Core i5-1260P mobile processor used in laptops has a 28W TDP. High-performance CPUs tend to use more power, while processors designed for efficiency provide ample performance at lower power ratings.

GPU (Graphics Card)

The graphics card plays a huge role in power consumption. Entry-level GPUs often have low 50-75W TDP ratings, while monstrous high-end GPUs can have TDPs ranging from 300W to 500W.

For example, Nvidia‘s RTX 4090 flagship has a massive 450W TDP rating under full load. Using multiple graphics cards further scales power consumption. Clearly, the GPU makes up a good chunk of a high-end gaming PC‘s hefty electricity demands.


Compared to the CPU and GPU, components like RAM aren‘t hugely power hungry in their own right. That said, having more RAM modules at higher frequencies does increase overall power draw marginally. Most RAM configurations have little significant impact, drawing only a few Watts while active.

Storage Drives

Similarly, SSD and hard disk drives draw a minimal amount of power, though SSDs are generally more efficient. Using multiple drives can add up, but storage power draw is still negligible for most users compared to cores components.

PSU (Power Supply Unit)

The PSU is what actually delivers power to all the components and transforms high-voltage AC from the wall to lower DC voltage. Efficiency ratings are important for less electrical waste heat, but a larger power supply capacity is what ultimately allows for powering more components. A 1,000W+ unit is necessary for the most powerful gaming PCs out there.

Case Fans and CPU Coolers

Fans and CPU fan radiators/coolers draw less than 5W each generally, but outfitting a PC with many extra case fans or a liquid cooling system does impact energy usage over time. It‘s another element that can add up substantially in high performance systems.

Peripherals and External Connections

External screens, speakers and other connected accessories can also pull quite a lot of power cumulatively. Large 4K displays need 50-100W, for example. Even USB devices draw some minimal power continuously or when actively charging.

Average PC Power Consumptions: Basic, Mid-Range, High-End

As you can see, power demands scale up tremendously based on a desktop computer‘s performance and quality targets. Here‘s a breakdown of average power consumption approximations for common PC tiers:

Basic Office Desktop PC: 50-150W

Typical specs: Integrated graphics, lower-power CPU, single monitor

Performance Mid-Range Gaming Desktop: 300-750W

Typical specs: Mid-range discrete GPU, overclocked CPU, high wattage PSU, multiple monitors

High-End 4K Gaming Desktop: 700-1,500W+

Typical specs: Flagship GPUs in SLI/Crossfire, 12-16 core CPU, multiple monitors, elaborate liquid cooling

And when gaming or running intensive applications, power draw spikes much higher than when idling for these PCs. High-end systems in particular can consume wattages rivaling some kitchen appliances when under full load.

Let‘s analyze some daily power consumption estimates:

  • Basic Desktop: 50W x 8 hours = 400 Wh = 0.4 kWh
  • Mid-Range Gaming Desktop: 500W x 8 hours = 4,000 Wh = 4 kWh
  • High-End 4K Gaming Desktop: 1,200W x 8 hours = 9,600 Wh = 9.6 kWh

Estimating Your Custom Gaming PC‘s Electricity Use

Pre-built office and gaming PCs generally have average power consumption values available from the manufacturer. But what about a custom desktop where you know the exact components inside?

If building or upgrading a gaming PC, simply tally up all of the TDP or power draw figures from the CPU, GPU, storage drives, fans, etc. used in your rig.

As a baseline example, let’s say your system includes:

  • Xeon E5-2620 v4 CPU (85W TDP)
  • RTX 3080 Founders Edition GPU (320W TDP)
  • 5x 120mm LED case fans (4W each)
  • 250 GB Samsung SSD (2.3W active power)
  • Two 27” 1080p monitors (25W each)

That gives us a max potential wattage of:

  • CPU: 85W
  • GPU: 320W
  • Fans: 20W (5 x 4W)
  • SSD: 2.3W
  • Monitors: 50W (2 x 25W)

Total: 477.3W when the computer is firing on all cylinders.

Be sure to allocate extra buffer room too in case you expand with more storage drives or fans down the line. A 750W power supply would be recommended here to leave safe overhead.

And again, this max power rating would only be reached temporarily under peak gaming loads. But nevertheless, you can now better estimate costs.

Electricity Costs Per kWh by State 2023

To determine how your custom desktop‘s power consumption actually impacts your energy bill, we need to factor in state and utility electricity rates.

Below are the latest average residential electricity costs per kWh across the United States as of February 2023, courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Prices vary hugely depending on region and local energy production mixes:

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State Average Electricity Rate (Cents per kWh)
Louisiana 8.61
Idaho 9.83
Washington 9.88

As you can see, Louisiana currently has the lowest average electricity prices at 8.61 cents per kWh, while states like New York (20.7 cents per kWh) and California (25.5 cents per kWh) are on the higher end.

Check your latest state averages when running cost calculations for the most accurate figures.

Factoring Gaming Hours to Estimate Monthly Electric Costs

Very few people have their desktops running full tilt for 8+ hours a day. So our next step is multiplying by estimated gaming hours to calculate monthly costs.

Let‘s assume you game on the above custom rig for around 2 hours per day on average, or 60 hours per month.

(2 hours x 30 days = 60 hours gaming monthly)

  • 477W x 2 hours x 30 days = 28,620 Wh (28.62 kWh) monthly
  • At 10 cents per kWh = $2.86 per month
  • At 20 cents per kWh = $5.72 per month

Contrast that with 8 hours of daily use which scales up to 172 kWh and a monthly cost of $17.20 (at 10 cent electricity).

Suddenly that high-performance gaming machine seems pretty affordable entertainment if you‘re just using it moderately. Though for 8+ hours of daily computing, expenses ramp up quicker.

Of course, this assumes you‘re actually closing down the PC after you‘re done rather than leaving it idling.

Estimating Laptop Power Usage Over Time

Gaming laptops have entirely different power considerations from their desktop counterparts. Their processors and discrete GPUs focus heavily on power efficiency to preserve limited battery capacities.

Let’s consider an example premium gaming laptop like the:

  • ASUS ROG Zephyrus 16”
  • Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU (45W max TDP)
  • RTX 3080 Max 105W GPU
  • 90Wh battery

Tallying those main power sinks gives us around 240W absolute max potential draw during intensive gaming. However, the laptop can‘t sustain peak power for long on battery.

Realistically, average power use hovers around 60-80W during a gaming session. For our monthly cost calculations, let’s assume an average of 70W while gaming:

  • 70W x 2 hour daily gaming x 30 days = 4,200 Wh (4.2 kWh)
  • At 10 cents per kWh = 42 cents per month
  • At 20 cents per kWh = 84 cents per month

Clearly, by focusing on power efficiency, even high-end gaming laptops sip just a small amount of extra electricity per month.

Should You Use a Kill A Watt Meter?

If you want to measure real-world usage rather than rely on estimates, using a kill a watt meter can tally up exact costs.

P3 Kill A Watt meters let you plug in devices to track kWh usage over time. Just connect your entire computer setup to the meter and keep it running for a week to measure average daily usage patterns.

Multiply by your electricity rate to then calculate exact PC costs per month. Fluctuations in actual usage versus rated wattages will be factored in.

This approach helps minimize guesswork if you want definitive running costs taking all peripherals into account.

Key Takeaways on PC Power Usage

Determining the electricity consumed by your desktop gaming or editing rig takes just a bit of simple math combined with your local energy rates. Remember that:

  • High-end GPUs and CPUs are the primary power sinks, drastically so in gaming systems
  • Targeted gaming/work hours impact overall costs more than peak power ratings
  • Laptops minimize idle and active power draw for battery efficiency
  • Use kilowatt meter devices to measure real-world numbers

And for most users, even high performance rigs end up reasonably affordable to run if usage time is moderate rather than perpetually leaving them switched on. By understanding your computer‘s estimated electricity appetite versus run hours, you can better manage long term costs and minimize electrical waste.