Your Flat Screen TV is an electricity hog

Looks can be deceiving. Who would have thought that a slim, sleek, flat TV set consumes more electricity than a refrigerator. In fact, 10 percent of your electric bill will go towards operating your flat screen TV. Maybe it's time to find a more efficient one, put it on a diet or find an eco-friendly flat screen set. 

Power hungry Flat Screen TVsTelevision sales are growing by 4 million sets a year, and the majority are flat-panels. The two popular types are Plasma and LCD — liquid crystal display units. Flat panel sets on average use 43 percent more electricity than conventional, picture-tube TVs, and larger models proportionately more.

There are about 275 million TVs currently in use in the U.S., consuming over 50 billion kWh of energy each year — or 4 percent of all households' electricity use. This is enough electricity to power all the homes in the state of New York for an entire year.

Existing flat screens are real electricity hogs. While you may not have noticed this, State electricity regulators certainly have. In California for example, it takes 40 percent of the electricity produced from a nuclear power plant to operate them during peak viewing times.

In an era where electricity costs are increasing, energy regulators in California are starting to write new rules requiring flat screen TV manufacuturers to sell only the most energy efficient units. Other States will surely follow.

What to consider when upgrading or buying a TV set
Here are several factoids to keep in mind:

  1. Plasma TVs generally consume more power than LCD flat screens.
  2. Size matters. Larger screen size generally means that the unit will consume more power.
  3. Not all TV's have a Yellow Energy Star Rating tag. It has to be earned.
  4. Even if you see a yellow tag, read the fine print on the Energy Star Rating. Only recently (November 2008) has the Department of Energy rated the TV sets while they were on! Before that the ratings were made for plugged in units that were turned off. (Unbelievable!).
  5. Any flat screen TV set that earns an energy star sticker means that the TV uses 30 percent less electricity than TV sets without a sticker. They also use less power when they are turned off.

That standby power really adds up. Standby power in your set may power your TV's clock and other functions while you are not watching it. It also enables some flat screens to power up very rapidly. Without it, you might have to wait (God forbid) a few seconds or so for your screen to render a total picture.

Putting Power Consumption in Perspective
A high-end Pioneer Elite, a 50-inch Plasma TV, consumes about 390 watts. That's like turning on 30 compact fluorescent light bulbs all at once. Assumin that you watch TV for five hours a day, the set consumes a lot more electricity than a typical refrigerator. When the TV is in a slightly dimmer, energy-saving mode, it only uses 300 watts, which matches its Energy Star listing. Still, your friendly neighborhood coal-burning power plant would emit a half-ton of carbon dioxide every year to keep this one TV on for five hours a day — and that's in energy-saving mode.

I constrast, the 32-inch LCD TV in its brightest setting consumed about 115 watts. That's the equivalent of about two incandescent light bulbs or 9 to 10 compact fluorescent lights.

What about Eco-friendly HDTVs?
Many people who are upgrading will be buying high definition TV sets. Some of the most eco-friendly HDTVs are also among the most energy-efficient models, thanks to the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a light source. The Samsung HL61A750, for instance, is a 61-inch DLP powered by LEDs, which not only enhance the power savings of the DLP but should last for the lifespan of the set. Consumers have praised the set's sharp images and vivid colors. The maximum energy draw of the HL61A750 is 170 watts. Flat-panel LCD televisions also benefit from LED technology.

Some brands are introducing green concepts into their manufacturing process. The Sony KDL-32JE1 is a 32-inch LCD television that needs only 89 watts of power to operate, and is made of recycled plastics from other Sony products. Sony uses as feedstock reprocessed materials that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill. Currently only available in Japan, this design is sure to go worldwide very soon.

See ratings of Flat Screen HDTVs courtesy of CNET.

Put your Flat Screen TV on a Diet
Even after you've bought a Flat Screen TV, you should still take a few minutes to limit it's power consumption. We've assembled a short list of tips that just about anybody can do to make their set energy efficient and keep you out of the poor house.

  • Turn the TV off when it's not being used.
  • Turn off the Quick Start option.
  • Turn down the LCD's backlight.
  • Turn on the power-saver mode.

See the remaining energy saving tips at courtesy of CNET.