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While power-supply units (PSUs) have not traditionally been power savers, a 2006 white paper by two Google data-center designers noted that redesigning industry-standard PSUs could yield potentially huge energy savings. Installing redesigned power supplies in 100 million desktop PCs that run eight hours a day, for instance, would save 40 billion kilowatt-hours over three years, according to the paper-that’s more than $5 billion at California’s energy rates.

While Google’s efficiency effort is theoretical at best, an initiative launched by utility companies and energy-efficiency organizations has resulted in real-world energy-saving PSUs. Known as the 80 Plus program, the voluntary certification program aims to make power supplies at least 80 percent energy-efficient. Many PSUs currently max out at only 60 percent, a result of their inefficiency in converting high-voltage AC power from the wall socket to low-voltage DC power for your PC.And because these energy-efficient PSUs aren’t overindulging on heat-generating energy, they can also eliminate the need for a fan, resulting in a quieter, more-reliable PC. Roughly 70 designs from almost 20 manufacturers now bear the 80 Plus label. A typical 80 Plus-certified option is the EarthWatts PSU from Antec, which is available in three models: 380-watt, 430-watt, and 500-watt. It features a universal input (which accepts line voltages from 100 to 240 volts AC), Serial ATA and PCI Express power connectors, and compliance with the ATX 12V standard. The built-in 80mm cooling fan is rated for low-noise operation.

Another alternative is Cosair’s VX450W and VX550W, both of which support Energy Star 4.0 standards and are rated for 80 percent or more energy efficiency under a wide variety of loading conditions. They’re available in 450-watt and 550-watt models.

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