Green Wave or Greenwash?

Electronics manufacturers step up with eco-friendly and energy-efficient products.

Electronic House Products of the Year 2008

Can the consumer electronics industry really be green? Seriously, we’re gadget happy, we like bigger and better TVs and audio systems, and we love, love, love killer home theater systems with lots of high-powered, high-energy oomph.

So I was curious as to what types of green electronics—if any—I would find at the recent CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) Expo in Denver. As one of my fellow airport shuttle passengers said upon hearing of my plans, “Good luck on your quest.” That made me feel like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, on some mission impossible.

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In the first press conference I attended, Toshiba touted energy efficiency with its AutoView feature that adjusts brightness, color, color temperature and contrast on its higher-end Regza XV545 and XV535 Series ($1,400 to $2,800). Its AV500, AV502 and RV525 lines are also compliant with the new Energy Star 3.0 spec that has power efficiency requirements in the “on mode.”

Next up, Sony showed a bunch of stuff, including its Triluminous LCD line with LED backlighting, another big potential energy saver, though even the Sony big wigs couldn’t tell me by how much. Then Sharp showed its LCD line-up, including Energy Star-rated Aquos D85U and D65U series and the very cool looking Limited Edition LED-backlit 65-inch LC-65XS1U-S and 52-inch LC-52XS1U-S monitors with local dimming.

We were off to a surprisingly green start. The next day, I saw Mitsubishi’s LaserVue TV, which uses a laser to shine a light on a DLP chip and operates under 200 watts (I was told 135 watts, but that has yet to be confirmed). Very cool. Very nice. Great colors, too. Only you’ll pay $7K for the privilege.

Acoustic material maker Auralex announced its EcoTech acoustic paneling that uses 100 percent recycled material. And in what I thought was the best display of energy efficiency, LG showed its forthcoming 47LG70 LCD with LED backlighting as well as a meter that showed how much energy a TV was using in the superbright “torch” mode setting for retail stores (264 watts) versus a home “night” mode setting (147 watts).

Knoll Systems showed its GSZ67 multiroom audio controller and amplifier that uses an Eco-System circuit to cut power to unused channels, as well as its GSZ44, four-source, four-zone amp that will be Energy Star-qualified by idling with less that 1 watt.

Monster Power touted its Green Power series of smart surge suppressors, Panasonic showed off its energy-efficient plasma TVs, Dolby displayed its High Dynamic Range (HDR) LED backlighting and local dimming technology, and CDGi and Salamander Designs have green home entertainment furniture.

And there’s more! Eaton had a plug-in Power Sensor for its Home Heartbeat system to sense the current a product is using. APC displayed its AP7900 rack-mounted power distribution unit that can turn off power to different products, Square D showed its new Mark II touchscreen and occupancy sensors for its Clipsal home control network, Beam showed off a HEPA air filtratration system (green is clean air, too), Samsung will come out with a recycling program in October, and Lutron can now dim some CFLs and LEDs with its HomeWorks and Grafik Eye lighting systems. More on these soon, I promise.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many green products were touted at the CEDIA Expo. Except for the LED TVs, they weren’t exactly front and center, but they were there. And going green was a real issue here, though still not nearly important as cool new things and big honkin’ home theater. Give it time, though, because most custom electronics installers I encountered say their clients are asking for energy efficiency.

CEDIA itself made it a point to incorporate some eco-friendly practices at its annual show, such as providing electronic education course materials instead of paper, offering attendees an option to donate to to offset their carbon dioxide emissions and printing promotional material on Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) paper. The organization of custom electronics professionals and manufacturers is also starting a Green Task Force to research and develop education content regarding green design and operation procedures for CEDIA members. I didn’t see any green-related education courses at this year’s show, but I’m sure that will come later.

I just hope the green wave in home electronics keeps moving forward and isn’t some token greenwashing. This industry has a great potential to help save both energy and resources, and progress on that should continue. I’ll also be writing about a lot of these companies and technologies in more detail, if I haven’t already.


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