According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 44 percent of American homes have three or more television sets, and each new set adds to a home’s monthly energy bill.
In the market for a new television? You’re not alone—U.S. consumers purchased an estimated 40 million new televisions with an average screen size of 50 inches last year.
To keep your electric bills in check, here are some tips to consider before buying a new television:
Three parts of a TV impact energy use: display technology, screen size, and resolution. Plasma and liquid-crystal display (LCD) are the two most popular types of display technologies. Plasma screens often are cited as the largest energy user―mainly because their large 42-inch to 65- inch screens typically draw between 240 watts to 400 watts.
LCD TVs don’t need much power to operate―111 watts on average. Most LCD screens range in size from 21 inches to 49 inches. These TVs fall into two categories: those with cold-cathode fluorescent lamps to illuminate the screen; and backlit models employing a light-emitting diode (LED). LED units offer several benefits, notably better picture quality and thinner and lighter screens. They also use slightly less energy, at 101 watts.
Most prospective buyers already have the ideal screen size in mind; remember that the larger the screen, the more energy you’ll drain. And although a high-definition TV (HDTV) transforms the latest blockbuster movie into a theater-like living room experience, these sets generally use more power to generate better picture clarity.
ENERGY STAR Boosts Ratings
ENERGY STAR TVs cut an estimated $3.5 billion from consumer electric bills annually. The joint energy efficiency ratings program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the first set of voluntary television efficiency standards in 1998. Today’s ENERGY STAR-qualified screens use, on average, 40 percent less energy than standard models, whether you’re watching the latest hit show (active mode) or have the screen turned off (standby mode).
Standards are constantly ratcheting up. In 2008, a 50-inch ENERGY STAR-rated television used 318 watts on average. In 2010, those sets had to curb energy use to 153 watts or less, and by 2012 50-inch TVs could not drain more than 108 watts. ENERGY STAR provides an online guide so potential buyers can find qualified televisions ranked by energy use, size, brand, and display type at www.energystar.gov.
ENERGY STAR Partners like TopTen USA also maintain lists of the top energy efficient televisions (and other household appliances) based on size at www.toptenusa.org.
Look for Labels
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recognized the need for education and easy comparisons for the amount of energy televisions consume. In 2011, a yellow Energy Guide label—a common sight on refrigerators, dishwashers, and other large appliances—became a requirement for TV.
“TVs now vary widely in the amount of energy they use,” comments FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “By comparing information on the Energy Guide labels, consumers will be able to make better-informed decisions about which model they choose to buy, based on how much it costs to operate per year.”
The label compares the annual operating cost of a specific television to the plug-in cost of similar models. The label must be attached to the front of all televisions; websites selling televisions must also provide an image of the label for prospective buyers.
While the FTC Energy Guide labels provide the annual cost to operate a television, consumers in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho can identify the most efficient ENERGY STAR television models by looking for an orange, “Most Efficient,” sticker. Learn more about the effort at www.energyefficientelectronics.org.
Tune in to Savings
If you’re not in the market for a new TV but want to make sure your model is operating efficiently, these tips may help you save energy:
- Turn off the TV and other connected devices when they’re not being used—consider using smart power strips to eliminate continually power draw.
- Reduce TV brightness by turning down the LCD backlight―you’ll save energy and still retain good picture quality.
- Turn on the power saver mode, which many new TVs offer
- Control room lighting. While many energy-saving tips reduce brightness of the screen, you can compensate by dimming lights around your TV.
Sources: ENERGY STAR, Federal Trade Commission, Cooperative Research Network, CNET.com, Energy Information Administration
Megan McKoy-Noe, CCC, writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Brian Sloboda contributed to this article.