What should you look for when shopping for a new plasma or LCD screen? In the next year to two, it could be a big yellow sticker. Such stickers would detail the estimated energy consumption of TVs and a number of consumer electronics products—much like those big yellow EnergyGuide labels that grace most appliances.
The disclosure of energy use by TVs, personal computers, cable and satellite set-top boxes, stand-alone digital video recorders (DVRs), and personal computer monitors is mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act that was passed by the U.S. Congress signed into law last week by President George W. Bush. For more on the effects of this bill, see “New Energy Laws for Electronics.”
Under the new law, the Federal Trade Commission has 18 months to require power consumption labels for those electronics, according to Douglas Johnson, senior director of technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), an electronics manufacturers’ organization. And the power disclosures could take many forms.
“I expect industry to offer up a solution early next year, certainly well before the timeline specified,” says Johnson. He adds that the power disclosure is likely to be a raw number or a range, such as kilowatt hours used per year, how much that will cost and whether it meets Energy Star requirements. Energy Star is the government-backed labeling system for energy-efficient products.
“The FTC will decide [on the form the labeling takes], but only after careful dialogue with industries,” Johnson says. “We want to make sure the FTC comes up with something that’s complementary to the Energy Star system,” meaning that if a product meets Energy Star requirements, that is also disclosed.
Reliable testing procedures for all the electronics to be labeled also need to be in place. Johnson says the industry has been focused on finalizing test procedures for measuring the power consumption of digital TVs. “With that project nearly complete, we will be making sure there are other ways of measuring power consumption for all consumer electronics.”
The lack of digital TV testing procedures meant that DTV power consumption was excluded from the CEA’s report on http://www.ce.org/pdf/Energy%20Consumption%20by%20CE%20in%20U.S.%20Residences%20(January%202007).pdf”>Energy Consumption by Consumer Electronics in U.S. Residences, released in early 2007. The report will be updated with data from the new testing procedures, according to the CEA.
If you can’t wait for energy labels to grace your next electronics purchase, you can find energy-efficient electronics at the Energy Star site and through the CEA’s myGreenElectronics.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates