The world of energy-efficient TV shopping can sometimes be confusing. There are LCD TVs, LED-backlit and LED-sidelit LCD TVs and plasma TVs. And, depending on the technology, a larger set might use less electricity than a smaller one. Here are five tips for understanding TV technology and energy efficiency so that you can walk out of the store with the set that’s right for you.
1. Size matters, but not as much as you might think
The simple fact is that bigger TVs use more power. But go small to try and save money off your monthly electric bill and you’ll encounter the law of diminishing returns. While a 32-inch LCD TV uses about half as much power as a 52-inch LCD TV, the 52-inch TV will give you three times the screen size. In reality, the payoff for going down in size tapers off the smaller the screen gets.
2. TV technology can make a big difference when it comes to energy consumption
Plasma screen TVs are in some ways superior to LCD TVs, especially when it comes to displaying action scenes and sports without the picture artifacts that bother enthusiasts. But plasma TVs are more expensive and they use more energy. When compared to LCD TVs, Plasma TVs use about two to three times more electricity to produce an image of the same brightness.
If you want the greatest energy efficiency, check out LED-backlit or LED-sidelit LCD TVs. Just don’t expect a windfall. Annual savings between an LCD TV and a LED LCD TV usually amount to less than $20.
3. Customize energy efficiency yourself by changing picture settings
While it’s true that the energy efficiency of TVs off the shelf can vary, keep in mind that you can further increase the energy efficiency of a TV once you get it home and get it set up.
By adjusting the contrast and brightness settings on your TV, you can significantly decrease the amount of power it uses. Most TVs have a contrast setting, also referred to as picture, and all new TVs have either a backlight setting (LCD TVs) or a cell light setting (plasma TVs). Dimming the contrast and backlight or cell light settings can cut your TV’s power use by as much as half. Just don’t overdo it or picture quality will start to suffer.
Many TVs have several energy-saving modes that will automatically adjust brightness and contrast. Some TVs can even turn on an energy saver mode and dim the brightness and contrast in response to the environment, such as when you turn off the lights to watch a movie. Some automatic or preset energy-saving modes can be distracting or can make images too dim, so be prepared to manually customize a few settings for the best results.
4. You don’t have to worry about energy vampires with a new TV
There are lots of electronic gadgets in homes these days that stay plugged in all the time — from computers to DVRs to coffee makers — and many of them continuously use electricity when they’re in standby mode waiting to receive a signal from a remote control, record a favorite show or brew a pot of coffee at a certain time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about leaving new TVs plugged in all the time anymore. In general, new models consume less than 1 watt of power in standby mode, which equates to about a dollar a year on your electric bill.
5. Always read the EnergyGuide label
All new TVs manufactured after May 10, 2011 are required to display EnergyGuide labels to help give consumers more information about energy consumption. The familiar yellow labels have appeared on home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators for a while and they’re now on TVs, too. If you shop for TVs online, websites are required to post an image of the label.
The part of the label that you should check out is the Estimated Yearly Energy Cost, which lets you know about how much the TV set will cost to operate over the course of a year and compares that cost to similar TV models.
Armed with these five tips, you should be able to better fight your way through the sometimes confusing world of TV shopping and escape with a set that is not only bigger and better but also more energy efficient than your old model. Have another idea that can help when it comes to shopping for a new TV? Let us hear it.
“Starting in 2011, FTC Will Require EnergyGuide Labels for Televisions,” Federal Trade Commission press release, Oct. 27, 2010.
CNET, “The Basics of TV Power.”