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What is the 80 Plus certificate on a power supply

One of the most important components for a computer equipment is the power supply. This not only supplies power for the computer to function, it also protects the components against deficiencies in the input voltage. One of the aspects that is measured is the efficiency of the power supplies, or what is the same, measuring the amount of losses. In modern power supplies this efficiency is validated using the 80 Plus certificate. In this article we will explain what this certificate is and how it is measured.


Birth of the 80 Plus certificate

This program, now based in the industry, was born in 2004 by the Ecova Plug Load Solution company, which established the 80 Plus protocol, which consists of carrying out a series of tests on computer power supplies at loads of 20%, 50% and 100%. To get the most basic certificate, you need an efficiency of 80% and it is relatively simple. This is that of the total energy it receives, at least 80% of the energy is maintained as electrical energy and not as heat in the heatsinks or condensers or as movement in the fans. they achieve this thanks to active PFC

That's how it started. But nowadays we find different levels within the certification.

Said system became mandatory in 2007 when Energy Star forced all companies that wanted to carry the logo of this specialized company, to comply with at least the basic 80 Plus certificate. It was at that point when manufacturers began to pass the 80 Plus standard within the Energy Star initiative. Since then there are more than 2.000 80 Plus certified power supplies.


Energy Star certified

Before continuing, we must know the Energy Star certificate, a program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which was created in 1992, with the idea of ​​promoting energy efficiency in electronic products, helping to reduce the emission of gases from greenhouse effect of power plants.


What is the 80 Plus certificate

This certificate is voluntarily obtained by the manufacturer of the power supply. Basically what is sought is to improve energy efficiency and thus take care of the environment. For us to understand, a power supply has current losses, since the components used transform part of the electricity into heat. The less electricity is transformed into heat, the better the efficiency of this power supply. Far from indicating the quality of the components, it tells us what percentage of the electricity is not lost along the way.

The power supply problems reside in two points. The first is that the computer works in direct current and the one that comes from a socket is alternating current, so a conversion and adaptation stage must be created. The other big problem is that the components, despite being conductive, have a resistance, which, as the current passes, generates losses in it that end up generating heat and that is where part of the electricity is lost, so it is seeks to minimize these inevitable losses.

certification-80plus-power-supply

Methodology for 80 Plus certification

Regardless of the use or model of the power supply, to obtain the certificate, the power supply will be subjected, in a laboratory, to a series of load tests of this power supply, passing through 10%, 20%, 50 % and 100% load on the power supply.

These tasks are carried out in a laboratory independent from that of the manufacturers. Manufacturers seeking such a certification must submit multiple samples of their power supplies and must pay a fee in order to qualify for laboratory testing. This fee will also allow companies to use the 80 Plus emblem, if they pass the certification.

The certified company asks the manufacturers to send at least two samples of the power supplies, although normally only one of the power supplies is used for the test, the rest of the sources being used if there is some kind of failure in the first one. these.


Laboratory methodology

These certifications are obtained in a laboratory, with very controlled parameters, something that could be quite different from the usual conditions of use. The first thing to keep in mind is that the laboratory's ambient temperature is controlled at 23ºC, a standardized temperature.

Depending on the market for the power supply, it undergoes a test methodology or others. All are subjected to different levels of load, what changes is the tension. Non-redundant power supplies, or what is the same, those that we all use in our computers, are tested at a voltage of 115V. Load tests are carried out at 20%, 50% and 100% load, with the exception of the 80 Plus Titanium certificate, which is also measured at a 10% load.

Redundant power supplies, used for servers and workstations, undergo slightly different tests. In this case, it works at a voltage of 230V, since it is the most common working voltage in Data Centers.

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80 Plus certifications according to efficiency level

Percentage of nominal load10%20%50%100%
80 Plus 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 Titanium90%94%96%94%

Example

Let's assume we have a stable 50% load of 300W. Depending on the efficiency of the power supply, we will need much more power to satisfy the same output demand or what is the same, to deliver the 300W, the consumption of the power supply will increase due to losses.

The power supplies consume three to five times more than an 80 Plus Bronze power supply, therefore if we use a low cost and poor quality PSU, we are saving in the first instance, but in the long run we will end up paying from more.

 DC INDC OUTEFFICIENCYLOST
MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS ATX500,00w 300w60%200,00w
LOW COST428,57w300w70%128,57w
80 PLUS352,94w300w85%52,94w
80 PLUS BRONZE340,91w300w88%40,91w
80 PLUS SILVER333,33w300w90%33,33w
80 PLUS GOLD326,09w300w92%26,09w
80 PLUS PLATINUM319,15w300w94%19,15w
80 PLUS TITANIUM312,50w300w96%12,50w

How valid is the 80 Plus certification methodology?

This is where the problem begins. That they guarantee us a certain efficiency is very good and it also tells us that the components used are of very good quality, but is this methodology really adapted to the real one of each user? Not by chance.

The first problem is the standard temperature of 23ºC in the room where the tests are carried out. If we take into account a Spanish home in summer, this temperature can easily be ambient in the early hours of the day, passing 30ºC during the hours of greatest impact, at noon, therefore, these measurements are no longer useful. Efficiency at this point is reduced, since the components have a much higher temperature than that measured in the laboratory, thus losing this test value.

Charges vary greatly during game hours and based on tasks. Keeping stable at a certain load does not seem the best option either, in addition, if it is not measured at 75% loads and 10% loads, a load that is usually that of a computer that has entered hibernation mode, so loses value.

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5VSB efficiency

Much of the efficiency is lost on channel 5VSB. This is specially developed for when a computer goes into hibernation or standby mode. The European Union established in 2013 the ErP Lot 3 directive, which establishes that computers and servers must have a power supply that consumes less than 5W (alternating current consumption) when the load will be equal to or less than 2.75W in the 5VSB lane.

This is one of the main factors that invalidates the certificates, since the ATX guideline establishes the efficiency in the 5VSB lane and that this must be measured, but the 80 Plus certificate does not measure this parameter. Therefore, it is not valid to measure only the efficiency of the voltages + 12V, 5V and 2.2V (the voltage of -12V is excluded)

open-source-power-80plus

Fake 80 Plus certifications

One of the great blunders in recent years has been the appearance from China of totally false 80 Plus certified power supplies, for which there is no valid guarantee of efficiency. The problem is that it cannot be verified in any way that the 80 Plus certificate is real, since there is no such identifier, such as a QR code or special barcode, therefore, hacking the certificate is very easy.


Conclusion

It is a certificate that over the years has become obsolete, due to the lack of interest of the certifier himself, who has passed everything Olympic and continues to carry out the same tests for almost 15 years and are clearly obsolete. It does guarantee us a minimum of quality of the components, but what use is all this efficiency to us if in summer the ambient temperature can easily go up to 40ºC.

The appearance of power supplies, from China, especially, with false certificates, denotes a total lack of security, since any manufacturer could mark their power supply without passing the corresponding tests or paying the fee. Modernization would be nice in this regard.

Unfortunately, there is no real competition to this certificate. The ETA and LAMBDA certificate has recently been created by Cybernetics, which measures more aspects of energy efficiency (ETA), with a more realistic test system and also the sound level (LAMBDA), although the reception in the industry has been very cold.

In short, serving, it works, but it is not a panacea and less does it guarantee that it has measures against voltage problems, it 'only' measures how much voltage is transformed into heat and how much energy we need to generate the same power.

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Robert Sole

Director of Contents and Writing of this same website, technician in renewable energy generation systems and low voltage electrical technician. I work in front of a PC, in my free time I am in front of a PC and when I leave the house I am glued to the screen of my smartphone. Every morning when I wake up I walk across the Stargate to make some coffee and start watching YouTube videos. I once saw a dragon ... or was it a Dragonite?

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