In this paper we present a method to determine the power efficiency of ultraviolet (UV) disinfection plants and apply this to low pressure plants for drinking water. In UV disinfection plants the water flow is regulated to ensure that microorganisms receive the necessary fluence for inactivation while passing through. The flow depends on the UV transmission (UVT) of the water. The lower the UVT of the water is, the less water may flow through the plant. UV irradiance is produced by lamps that consume, together with other components, electrical power and entail running costs. The power efficiency - electrical power versus disinfected volume - of a plant has therefore an important impact. Applying this method to different UV plants that are on the market shows that electric power of at least 5.3 Wh is necessary to disinfect 1 m(3) of water possessing a UVT of 80% (100 mm), 8 Wh at 50% and 22 Wh at 10%. Further we found that ineffective design or a wrong selection of a plant may enhance these values by a factor of up to 7. This method enables not only the calculation of the power efficiency but also the decision for a certain plant type.