What Is “80 Plus” Certification on a PSU?

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If you’ve been looking at PSUs recently because you’re building a PC from scratch, you might have seen the words “80 Plus” somewhere in the description. While 80 Plus certification isn’t often discussed, it’s an important part of building a good PC.

The History of 80 Plus

Originally started in 2004 by Ecos Consulting, but is now run by CLEAResult, 80 Plus certification is a completely voluntary certification that any manufacturer can work towards to show the efficiency of their power supply. In fact, the 80 from ’80 plus’ comes from having a PSU that runs at 80% efficiency when drawing different levels of power from the outlet.

While this is a bit complicated, the short and long of it is that PSUs aren’t always drawing the rated power on the box, especially when it’s not used for anything heavy like gaming or productivity work. Furthermore, PSUs tend to be more efficient when closer to their rated power, so a 500W PSU providing 400W will often be more efficient than a 500W PSU providing 100W of power.

That then leaves the question of what efficiency is.

If you consider an 80% efficiency, then in the example above, when a PSU provides 400W of power, it’s actually drawing 500W from the outlet. That means a full 100W is going to waste and creating heat, which can be a big problem. Not only does the extra heat affect the performance of the PC because of the internal heat, but it also costs you money for all the wattage that isn’t doing anything.

Ultimately, that’s what the 80-plus Certification tries to provide: assurance to the customer that the efficiency the manufacturer claims are accurate.

The Different 80 Plus Certifications

While the original certification, the 80 Plus Basic, only required 80% efficiency at 20% load, 50% load, and 100% load, as technology advanced and needs changed, five new certifications were added:

  • 80 Plus Bronze
  • 80 Plus Silver
  • 80 Plus Gold
  • 80 Plus Platinum
  • 80 Plus Titanium

Beyond that, certifications were also subdivided into 115-volt internal non-redundant, 230 V internal redundant, and 230 V EU internal non-redundant. These three subdivisions allow manufacturers to target different markets in the US, the EU, and anywhere where these specific voltages exist.

All that is to say that certification is a bit too complicated to show in text, which is why we have the handy tables below to show you the efficiency required at different levels. For example, if a manufacturer wants to certify their 115V power supply with 80 plus gold, they would need to show 87% energy efficiency at 20% of the load, 90% efficiency at 50% of the load, and 87% efficiency at 100% of the load.

As such, if you’re buying a new PSU, you can look at these tables and figure out how efficient it is based on its 80 Plus certification. That will in turn let you know the sort of cost savings you’re getting.

For the 115V internal non-redundant, the efficiency requirements look like this:

10% of Load 20% of Load 50% of Load 100% of Load
80 Plus Basic 80% 80% 80%
80 Plus Bronze 82% 85% 82%
80 Plus Silver 85% 88% 85%
80 Plus Gold 87% 90% 87%
80 Plus Platinum 90% 92% 89%
80 Plus Titanium 90% 92% 94% 90%

For 230 V EU internal non-redundant, it looks like this:

10% of Load 20% of Load 50% of Load 100% of Load
80 Plus Basic 82% 85% 82%
80 Plus Bronze 85% 88% 85%
80 Plus Silver 87% 90% 87%
80 Plus Gold 90%  92% 89%
80 Plus Platinum 92% 94% 90%
80 Plus Titanium 90% 94% 96% 94%

Generally speaking, these are the two subdivisions that most people will be dealing with at the consumer level, so you don’t need to worry about the 230V internal redundant standard, which is made specifically for servers and data centers.

What 80 Plus Certification Should I Get?

The truth is, as you go higher up in the certification list, the more expensive the PSU is going to get, so ultimately, this depends a lot on your budget and if you think it’s worth the extra cost.

That being said, most people should try and aim for 80 Plus Bronze, if only because it shows some effort on the manufacturer’s part to adhere to a strict standard. It’s especially true if you’re going for a mid-level PSU in the 300-500W range, though 80 Plus Silver would be much better. Starting at the 500W-800w range, you’re not likely to see anything below 80 Plus Silver anyway. And most of the PSUs at the higher end of that bracket tend to be 80 Plus Gold, which makes sense, given the compound scale of waste from inefficiency.

Above 800W and around 1,200W, you want to go for 80 Plus Gold as a minimum. The higher you get in wattage, the more value a higher certification will give you, and the more spending that extra money makes sense. In fact, you’ll likely find that many PSUs at or above 1,200W already come with either 80 Plus Platinum or Titanium by default.