January 12, 2009 by Steven Castle
You’ve heard of the new Energy Star specifications for digital TVs? It’s been so popular that a newer—and stricter—one may be implemented later this year.
The new Energy Star 3.0 specification sets standards for total power consumption when a TV is on, as well as the power it uses when in “standby,” or off. A 42-inch flat-panel TV must use 208 watts or less, and a 50-inch 318 watts or less to display the Energy Star logo; they must also use less than 1 watt while in standby. (When turned off, many electronics still use a small amount of power for remote control sensing and other functions.)
About 460 TVs have qualified for Energy Star since the new spec went into effect in November. That’s an impressive number. So why change the spec again and make it even stricter? Because too many TVs appear to have qualified to display the Energy Star logo.
Energy Star is supposed to signify that a product is more efficient than most others in its category. So when the EPA sets an Energy Star standard, it anticipates that about 25 percent of the models in that class will qualify. When considerably more than that meets the voluntary standards, new and more stringent requirements can be implemented, with the goal of improving energy efficiency further.
Neither the EPA, which heads up the Energy Star program, nor the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) know exactly how many digital TV models have been released since November, but it appears that well over 25 percent of the models have qualified for Energy Star. In some cases, manufacturers’ entire lines of manufacturers’ LCDs have qualified, as have dozens of plasma-based TVs. “When we are seeing that the vast majority of TVs at Best Buy meet Energy Star, we will probably kick off Tier 2 [of the new 3.0 specification],” says Energy Star’s Katharine Kaplan.
The progress that has been made in reducing the energy consumption in TVs has been wonderful. In some cases, sizable LCDs are consuming a little more than 100 watts when on—versus up to 300 or more a year or two ago. Considerable progress has been made in making plasma TVs much more efficient as well. Maybe the new Energy Star spec was too easy for many manufacturers to meet.
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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
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