Stricter Energy Star Standards for TVs Coming—Again
Some big screens may have to reduce power by more than 50 percent.
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May 28, 2009 by Steven Castle

If you haven’t bought an Energy Star-qualified TV, don’t feel bad. You’ll get a chance to be even more energy-efficient, as the Energy Star specifications are being dialed up for TVs. Some 50-inch TVs may have to reduce energy use by 50 percent or more to qualify as an Energy Star TV.

The proposed revisions, which Energy Star plans to put into effect on May 1, 2010, could require 42-inch HDTVs to reduce power consumption by 93 watts while on (from the current requirement of 208 watts to 115 watts), and 50-inch HDTVs to reduce power by 165 watts (from 318 to 153 watts). Sixty-inch TVs would have to use 210 watts or less, down from the current requirement of 391 watts.

The new requirements are being proposed by Energy Star as a revision to the TV specifications went into effect in November 2008. That specification for the first time included energy consumption for on-modes, as well as a requirement to use less than 1 watt of power in standby, or off. Some TVs with automatic brightness control, which reduces the backlighting of TVs in dark rooms, could also qualify as Energy Star TVs.

But funny thing: The Energy Star 3.0 specification for TVs that went into effect in November was wildly popular with manufacturers. “We have a very high number of TVs qualifying—over 800 now,” says Energy Star’s Katharine Kaplan. “Most TVs on the market can meet the spec.”

The Energy Star program, however, is designed to alert consumers to only the most energy-efficient products. Only about 25 percent of TVs should qualify as Energy Star and show the logo. So in other words, the current TV requirements are far too lenient.

The new proposals, Kaplan says, are contentious among manufacturers, though she says about 25 percent of current TVs would qualify. The revised energy consumption levels for all TVs mirror the current specification’s levels for standard-definition TVs (480p resolution). (No separate requirement for standard-def is proposed in the proposed revision.) A second draft of the proposal is due June 5, and Kaplan hopes to have the specification for Energy Star 3.1 for TVs finalized by August.

And after that? Look for even more stringent requirements to take effect in May 2012. At that time, the current proposal calls for 42-inch TVs to drop to 81 watts while on, 50-inch sets to use 107 watts, and 60-inchers to use 146 watts. Smaller 32-inch sets, for example, would sip just 55 watts.

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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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