The Energy Whip Comes Down on TVs


New Energy Star standards for energy-efficient TVs will save 40 to 65 percent in electricity.

Sep. 04, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Our TVs are bound to get much more efficient—starting next year.

Energy Star, the voluntary energy-efficiency program run by the United States’ EPA, has released the final specifications for much more stringent energy levels for TVs, starting in May 1, 2010, with even stricter standards to follow on May 1, 2012. TVs manufactured after those dates must meet the new requirements to bear the Energy Star logo, which signifies a more energy-efficient product.

The new specs for TVs, called versions 4.0 and 5.0, respectively, are focused mainly around on-mode power consumption. The current Energy Star 3.0 specification that went into effect in November 2008 was the first to require TVs to meet maximum on-mode power consumption levels, though most TVs in the market met the standard and the specification has been considered too lenient.

According to Energy Star, “TVs qualifying for Energy Star under the Version 4.0 specification will offer consumers a savings of more than 40 percent. When the Version 5.0 specification goes into effect, Energy Star-qualified TVs will be as much as 65 percent more efficient than models currently on the market.”

Here’s a breakdown of the current on-mode levels TVs must meet to be Energy Star-certified, and those after May 2010 and May 2012:

20-inch screen
Version 3.0 (current)—66 watts (HDTVs)
Version 4.0 (May 2010)—37 watts
Version 5.0 (May 2012)—27 watts

32-inch screen
Version 3.0 (current)—120 watts (HDTVs)
Version 4.0 (May 2010)—78 watts
Version 5.0 (May 2012)—55 watts

42-inch screen
Version 3.0 (current)—208 watts (HDTVs)
Version 4.0 (May 2010)—115 watts
Version 5.0 (May 2012)—81 watts

50-inch screen
Version 3.0 (current)—318 watts (HDTVs)
Version 4.0 (May 2010)—153 watts
Version 5.0 (May 2012)—108 watts

60-inch screen
Version 3.0 (current)—391 watts (HDTVs)
Version 4.0 (May 2010)—210 watts
Version 5.0 (May 2012)—108 watts

The new specs also require standby power of 1 watt or less (when the TV is off), as well as luminance (brightness) levels and energy requirements for TVs while in data acquisition mode (DAM), like retrieving TV Guide information.

A small allowance in energy use is given to TVs that use automatic brightness control, which can dim a screen depending on the amount of ambient light in the room. About 30 percent of the current Energy Star TVs qualified under this option in the 3.0 specification, says Katharine Kaplan of the Energy Star program.

Interestingly, the luminance requirement is for TVs in a home mode to use no less than 65 percent of the brightness of a retail (also called torch) mode, which uses a higher-power state with high brightness and contrast levels for viewing in retail environments. The reason for this, explains Kaplan, is to prevent a home mode that is too dim and forces users to turn it up, thereby using more electricity.

It will be interesting to see whether the Energy Star requirements spur TVs—especially larger ones and more energy-dependent plasma-based models—to become more efficient. My guess is that many will. The future Energy Star specs, although voluntary, are much more stringent than California’s proposed energy level restrictions for TVs to be sold in that state.

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