Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Video gaming is one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the United States. Statistically, the largest age group among gamers is between 35-44 as of 2015, with every third game enthusiast being a millennial between the ages of 18 and 35 (Statista). The numbers are ever changing, with over 25 percent aged 50 or older, and woman continuously increasing their foothold at nearly 42 percent of gamers.
The largest growing gaming market is mobile gaming at nearly 200 million people. What does this mean? It means people want to game wherever they’re at, not just in the comfort of their home. Mobile gaming affords more flexibility in one’s life when it comes to gaming. The limitations of these games seem to not hinder their popularity either. Mobility is the leading factor here. As gamers get older, they become more mobile in general. They tend to travel more, buying RVs for weekend getaways or becoming part of the ever-increasing nomadic lifestyle. Others are retiring, buying RVs, and traveling. These demographics need more mobile options.
What does this mean for the gaming industry, particularly the console industry and PC platform?
For starters, it means the industry must change as whole. Google and others are looking at cloud-based streaming directly to devices, which in turn increases mobility, the largest demographic of gamers. The ideas are solid, but the amount of data required for streaming is immense. Purportedly, 5G could be the answer to solve the bottleneck, but at what cost? If data plans for mobile are already high, what costs will they derive for unlimited data on a 5G network? Let’s be honest, the numbers are not in favor of the average consumer. What this means is that gamers will have to choose between quality over mobility. Quality of games over a broadband system at home or mobility of games over a slower data connection. If the data is correct, people are willing to sacrifice quality for mobility.
An important aspect of technology today is how it connects people, making us more mobile by default. Incorporating technology in new ways is where solar-powered gaming comes in. What if you could play high quality console systems while still being mobile? Would you be more inclined to explore? Some of us have obligations with certain online gaming communities, guilds to maintain or participate in, or merely a desire to play video games in our downtime that are more complex and graphicly exciting. This community is large, around 86 million people per month (Statista) and they need some mobile support.
Enter the new world of solar-powered gaming. Being able to add solar panels to vans, RVs, and cars in order to make gaming more portable, without sacrificing quality or the investments made into large game libraries, adds a mobile facet missing. It’s time to reach the group of individuals wanting a better mobile experience than the current smartphone options available.
We specifically built our travel trailer around solar-powered gaming, figuring out how much power consoles and PCs use to determine how much power we would need to be more mobile. For full-time traveling, we needed more solar, building a system to run the rest of our devices, such as air conditioning and lights. You can read about our solar setup here.
Now we are going to look at the power consumption and what is needed to run the system, or systems, of your choosing.
CONSOLE GAMING POWER CONSUMPTION (on average)
112 Watts Gaming
74 Watts Streaming
16 Watts Standby
137 Watts Gaming
89 Watts Streaming
8.5 Watts Standby
Samsung 4K UHD Monitor 28”:
Solar panels connect to 12-volt batteries, which are labeled by the amount of amp hours they produce at 12 volts. The best batteries are lithium, like the batteries in a Prius or smartphone. For a detailed analysis of why lithium is the best choice, click here. In order to determine how much power is needed to run a gaming system, we need to determine how much that system uses.
Converting these numbers into Amp Hours (Ah) is how we determine how much of a battery bank we want and how much energy it uses in a solar array. Firstly, we must convert our Watts into Watt Hours (Wh) to determine how many hours we might game. This is important in determining the eventual Amp Hours. Let’s say we want to game for about 8 hours per day. For the hardcore gamer or streamer, that’s nothing and will need to be adjusted accordingly. On days we don’t game, the energy just rebuilds. It’s better to overestimate than to underestimate.
Watt Hour (Wh) Conversion – 8 Hours of Gaming per day
(112 Watts Gaming) x (8 hours) = 896 Wh
(74 Watts Streaming) x (8 hours) = 592 Wh
(16 Watts Standby) x (8 hours) = 128 Wh
(137 Watts Gaming) x (8 hours) = 1,096 Wh
(89 Watts Streaming) x (8 hours) = 712 Wh
(8.5 Watts Standby) x (8 hours) = 68 Wh
Samsung 4K UHD Monitor 28”:
(29.6 Watts) x (8 hours) = 237 Wh
*Now we can divide our Watt hour conversions by the volts in our battery system, which is on DC, and uses 12 volts.
Amp Hour (Ah) Conversion – 8 Hours of Gaming per day on 12v battery
(112 Watts Gaming) x 8 = 896 Wh / 12v = 75 Ah
(74 Watts Streaming) x 8 = 592 Wh / 12v = 49 Ah
(16 Watts Standby) x 8 = 128 Wh / 12v = 2 Ah
(137 Watts Gaming) x 8 = 1,096 Wh / 12v = 91 Ah
(89 Watts Streaming) x 8 = 712 Wh / 12v = 59 Ah
(8.5 Watts Standby) x 8 = 68 Wh / 12v = 6 Ah
Samsung 4K UHD Monitor 28”:
29.6 Watts x 8 hours = 237 Wh / 12v = 20 Ah
Solar Power Array & Battery Size:
Now that the basic calculations are made, we can see that our important numbers are the combination of monitor and console.
XBOX ONE + Monitor:
75 Ah + 20 Ah = 95 Ah
PS4 + Monitor:
91 Ah + 20 Ah = 111 Ah
What this means is that we need about a 100 Ah lithium battery or a 200 Ah AGM battery. One lithium battery would work here. It charges faster than other batteries and it holds the voltage constant as it drains. Learn more about lithium here.
As for the solar panels, a general rule of thumb is that a 100-watt panel will generate 30 Ah per day. This means that we would need at least 300 watts of solar to complete this system. Panels are now sold in 170-watt systems, so going with two 170-watt panels is ideal, giving you some extra to help with the PS4 and extra items like lights and charging phones. If you want to not worry about draining one battery, it’s wiser to go with two 100 Ah lithium batteries. The extra battery means you can game longer more often. For cheaper options, you can go with AGM gel batteries. They are heavier, and won’t last as long, but will work as a budget friendly option.
Consoles require 120-volt energy, so an inverter is needed, but not a very big one. You can go with a 12 volt one that sits at around 350 watts or less. A system with a bigger inverter means you can run more items off the batteries. For instance, our entire system can be powered off the lithium batteries, running the console, TV, fridge, charging stations, etc. Inverter size will depend on your overall usage of items needing to be plugged into a 120-volt system.
2 – 100 Ah Lithium-ion Batteries
2 – 170 -Watt Solar Panels
Having unlimited Hot Spot on your mobile data plan is ideal. You want to be able to update games on console devices, which are several gigs each time. Playing games online also takes data, making the Hot Spot the go-to for mobile console gaming. If data is limited, you’re mobile, so get yourself to a place with free WIFI and either park outside or bring your system in and update it fully.
PC gaming uses far less energy than console gaming. The system you build for console gaming will easily run any PC gaming you do.
Gaming is constantly evolving. How we game is moving more toward the mobile platform but doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice quality. Console and PC gamers can still be mobile, now that technology prices in solar and lithium batteries are more accessible. Now you can tour the country and not give up your love of gaming. By creating a solar array and battery bank capable of supporting your habits, you can game until your hearts content.
Thanks to Lee Johnson from Techwalla for the conversion information.