Berkeley Lab researcher Evan Mills co-authored an investigation of the aggregate global energy use of personal computers designed for gaming and found that gamers can achieve energy savings of more than 75 percent by changing some settings and swapping out some components.
It would not just save polar bears or the power bill, it could also make machines more reliable.
If they did, they could save the planet $18 billion per year globally by 2020, or 120 terawatt hours (TWh).
The results have been published in the journal, Energy Efficiency, in a paper titled, "Taming the energy use of gaming computers."
Gaming computers represent only 2.5 percent of the global installed personal computer (PC) base but account for 20 percent of the energy use.
Mills calculated that a typical gaming computer uses 1,400 kilowatt-hours per year, or six times more energy than a typical PC and 10 times more than a gaming console.
Mills estimated that gaming computers consumed 75 TWh of electricity globally in 2012, or $10 billion, and projects that will double by 2020 given sales rates and without efficiency improvements.
He noted that there was an immense variation in the nameplate power. GPU's ranged from 60 to 500 watts and yet their performance varied considerably. Some units that were highest in performance had lower power consumption.
Mills built five gaming rigs with progressively more efficient component configurations, then followed industry protocols for benchmarking performance while measuring energy use.
He achieved a 50 percent reduction in energy use while performance remained essentially unchanged. Additional energy savings were achieved through operational settings to certain components, yielding total savings of more than 75 percent.