Info and Answers
Less Is More with New Energy Star-Rated TVs
Tune in, turn on—and prepare to save some bucks when the new Energy Star requirements go into effect for TVs on November 1.
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Sharps’ inch-thick Limited Edition LC-65XS1U-S uses energy-efficient LED backlighting and will be Energy Star–certified.
October 29, 2008 by Steven Castle

Want to save some energy around your house? How about buying a new TV? Yes, you can have an energy-efficient TV—at least one that’s more energy efficient than previous models. Some TV manufacturers claim to have cut the power consumption of certain models by more that 50 percent. And these sets can perform just as well—if not better—than comparable TVs.

TV makers have had some incentive. On November 1, new requirements go into effect for TVs bearing the Energy Star logo, which signifies that the set is more energy efficient than most other TVs available in the United States. At least that’s the intent.

In some cases, manufacturers are claiming that entire lines of their LCDs will meet the new Energy Star 3.0 specification. Some plasma TVs, which tend to use more power than LCDs, will make the cut as well.

Any TV manufactured on November 1 or after and that bears the Energy Star logo must meet specifications for both its “On Mode” state, depending largely on screen size, and “Standby Mode” (off) state, during which it must consume less than 1 watt of power. (TVs use power when they’re “off” to keep remote sensors activated.) Previously, Energy Star TVs only had to meet the standby power requirements.

While on, a 42-inch Energy Star–rated LCD or plasma HDTV must now come in at 208 watts or less, while a 50-inch model must use 318 watts or less. (Standard-definition TVs with 480i resolution must consume even less power.)

For many LCD makers, the goal was reasonable and reachable. In fact, Samsung claims all its present LCDs would meet the new spec regardless, so don’t look for many changes in its TVs.

But several innovations have shed a significant amount of power consumption by our beloved TVs. In both LCDs and plasmas, look for “home” viewing modes made available during the on-screen setup. Most TVs ship in vivid or “torch” mode to appear bright and colorful in retail stores and—believe it or not—many people never tone them down. Just taking a TV out of the vivid retail mode can save 20 percent or more in energy consumption.

Movie, sports and other modes may be a part of the “home mode” options. There are automated modes, too, that dim or brighten an LCD’s backlight depending on dark or light scenes in a movie, for example. Ambient light sensors, available on many LCDs and plasmas, can dim the panel based on the light levels of a room. For example, an LCD with an automated backlight will play brighter during a bright day and darker at night. That saves plenty of juice, and according to the LCD Association, it’s an easy way to cut energy costs. Philips’ 42-inch EcoTV, for example, has an ambient backlight that results in the set using just 90 to 120 watts at times, says the company.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
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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