This week, several international and Brazilian press vehicles reported that the US had begun to ban gamer PCs in six states across the country, due to high energy consumption. Not quite: the US government is not going to break into homes and seize computers while people are playing games. The idea, in fact, is to encourage PC makers to sell more efficient machines.
Why are six US states banning certain desktops?
What’s really happening is: Dell has been barred from shipping specific models of desktops in the Alienware lineup — Aurora R10 and R12 — to consumers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont or Washington. According to the company, the machines cannot be sold due to energy efficiency regulations established by these states.
However, these energy-saving measures aren’t as bad or overwhelming as some news stories might make it out to be. Basically, the rules created by the California Energy Commission (CEC) will not affect the sale of pieces of hardware — such as processors and video cards — nor will they make gaming on your home computer a crime.
California’s energy rules have been in existence since 2016
First of all, it is necessary to understand that this CEC energy regulation is nothing new. Since 2016, the change in energy consumption in the six states was already planned to happen in 2021. In those five years, companies had time to choose between understanding and adapting to new standards, or disagreeing with the decision and not selling computers in part from the USA.
As of July 1st of this year, level two of the “Device Efficiency Regulations – Title 20” began to apply for desktops, specifically when in hibernation. What does that mean? As of that date, companies can no longer sell pre-assembled computers that consume a lot of energy when idle.
In other words, no one will care about people running a game in 4K resolution at over 60 frames per second with an RTX 3080 Ti or even mining cryptocurrencies. The problem is when a computer consumes a high amount of energy while no one is using the machine for more than 30 minutes.
It is allowed to assemble a computer piece by piece
The document is long and can be read in its entirety (in English) on the Energy Star website . In short, if a US citizen wants to build his own gamer PC by buying separate parts, nothing will stop him—apart from the worldwide hardware shortage, of course.
Only pre-assembled desktop manufacturers such as Dell, HP and others will need to adapt to the new rules. It’s worth remembering that they’ve already had five years to do this.
The decision to create the device efficiency regulations came from a 2015 study, which stated that the use of high-end PCs, and games as a whole, accounted for 20% of California’s residential energy use. Of course, banning the sale of only a few specific desktops shouldn’t reduce that expense much, but it could lead manufacturers to use more efficient parts in their machines in the future.
In any case, it is likely that more measures like this will be implemented not only in the US, but in the rest of the world. Europe, for example, already has laws that encourage the use of more energy-efficient components in computers. It is discussed, however, whether it is feasible to completely prohibit consumer access to products that do not respect the laws of the countries.