How Do the Latest TVs Compare in Energy Efficiency?

By Josh Crank, July 13, 2018, Energy Efficiency

Ever since flat screen TVs began flooding the market in the early 2000’s, TV technology has been evolving at a rapid pace. Some TVs that are just a few years old and in perfect working condition are technologically obsolete, and a few of them — like large plasma TVs — may be major energy hogs compared to what you’ll find at retailers today.

But the good news is that the latest TV models are generally more energy-efficient than their predecessors, and that trend is expected to continue. If you’re conscious about conserving energy and controlling your monthly electric bill, you can feel confident in the purchase of just about any new television. Saving money on TV use is more a matter of evaluating your older TVs and changing the ways you use them.

How Do the Latest TVs Compare in Energy Efficiency? | Bounce Energy Blog

New TV Energy-Efficiency

When shopping for a new TV, your options fall into two main categories: liquid crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs.

LED TVs, as they’re sometimes called, are actually a specific type of LCD TV and are the most common type sold today. They use light-emitting diodes, which are extremely energy-efficient, to backlight their screens. OLED TVs are the most advanced type available and tend to be more expensive. While they’re still more energy efficient than older TVs, some OLEDs use nearly twice as much energy as comparable LED TVs.

Energy Use of Older TVs

Some older TVs are in the same energy efficiency ballpark as the ones you can purchase new, while others can cost noticeably more.

Older LCD TVs might not be backlit with LEDs, but rather with cold cathode fluorescent lamps, or CCFLs. While these aren’t energy hogs, they aren’t as efficient as the newer LED models.

Plasma TVs were considered by many to offer superior picture quality to LCDs, but with the advent of OLED technology, plasmas have disappeared from the retail market. If you own a plasma TV, you may also find that it offers a better viewing experience — but it does so at a price. Plasma TVs consistently use more energy than LCDs, and the really huge models can consume several times more electricity.

You might even have an old, boxy cathode ray tube (CRT) TV laying around. Because of the significant difference in picture quality between CRTs and even the cheapest LCDs, you probably aren’t using this old set anymore. But if you are, you’re also burning more energy than you would with an LCD — though probably less than you would with most plasma sets.

How Do the Latest TVs Compare in Energy Efficiency? | Bounce Energy Blog

How Much Energy do TV Features Use?

As a general rule, bigger TVs consume more energy than smaller ones. But with the recent gains in TV energy efficiency, the difference between watching a 32-inch LCD and a 60-inch LCD can easily come down to just a few dollars per year.

Somewhat more important to energy efficiency is screen resolution. Ultra high-definition TVs use more electricity than ordinary HDTVs, and those with a 1080p resolution are more demanding than 720p sets. But again, for many TV users, the difference in actual electricity costs is negligible.

Another small but measurable difference maker in energy consumption is “always on” technology. These are the background functions that some modern TVs perform when they’re not in use. The most common “always on” feature is what’s often called “quick start mode” or “standby mode”, which reduces the amount of time it takes for the TV to turn on by keeping some processes constantly running. But the “always on” feature that often consumes the most electricity is voice activation, because it requires the TV to constantly “listen” for commands.

How to Make Your Existing TV More Energy Efficient

When it comes to minimizing your TV-related energy costs, half the battle is ditching your outdated TVs in favor of newer, more efficient models. But you may be able to make an even bigger difference just by changing your TV habits:

  • Disable “always on” features unless you really need them.
  • Turn down your screen brightness. If it makes the picture hard to see, try drawing the shades or dimming the lights. Brightness has a big effect on power consumption.
  • Keep your other TV-connected appliances, like disc players and game consoles, plugged into a power strip that you can easily turn off when you’re not using the TV. This will help prevent small “phantom loads” of electricity that can add up over time.
  • Make sure the TV is off when nobody is watching. Some TVs have built-in timers that will prompt you to confirm that you’re still watching after a certain length of time.
  • Dim the screen — or better yet, disable the picture altogether if your TV allows it — when using a smart TV to stream music, podcasts or other audio. If you’re only using your speakers, there’s no need for the screen to be drawing so much energy.
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