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Illinois Country Living

The Hidden Costs of TVs

by Niki Shutt

Have you ever felt like something you purchased was priced too good to be true? Well, keep in mind that the 52-inch flat-panel plasma television you just bought on sale will actually cost you quite a bit more on your electricity bill than a standard tube TV. Some TVs use more electricity than others. Is yours energy efficient?

There are two types of popular TVs: liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma. Most people have at least one cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV, which has been the standard for years. LCD and plasma screens are typically for living rooms or home theaters and can be up to 103 inches.

Americans are paying more for these new models, at the time of purchase and on electric bills. American televisions consume 47 billion kWh per year. That’s 1 percent of the nation’s entire energy production according to

Standard CRT TVs use about 300 kWh a year. That costs about $25 annually per TV. Larger LCD TVs can cost about $60, while plasma TVs could cost up to $180 a year.

The main reason that plasmas cost the most is because they have bigger screens to power. CRT-based TVs are made of glass and can only support 36-inch or smaller screens. The smallest plasma screens are 37 inches. Plasmas also need to light each and every pixel whereas LCDs do not project light into dark parts of images.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative Director of Member Services, Bruce Barkau, says, “It’s a personal preference more than anything,” after speaking with a Panasonic representative at a local Best Buy. The representative told him plasmas are better for darker places without windows such as basements, while LCDs are more suited for brighter places due to reflection on the glass. When he asked about energy consumption, the representative said plasmas use more electricity while in use than LCDs but use less in off mode than LCD TVs.

So, what is the most energy efficient television? It varies, but a good indicator that a TV is more energy efficient is the Energy Star label. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began labeling qualified TVs in 1998 by measuring the energy they used in off-mode. Recently, they outlined requirements in the active mode as well. TVs that qualify for Energy Star are at least 30 percent more efficient than conventional models.

Since energy consumption is measured while the TV is on, a smaller screen (less than 40 inches) LCD TV is the way to go. Small LCDs are actually more efficient than a CRT-based TV. LCDs are also expected to drop in price in the near future according to market researcher DisplaySearch.

Want a BIG screen TV (50 inches or more)? In terms of energy consumption, the only real winner is a light emitting diode (LED) TV. It’s relatively new technology and can consume half the electricity of an LCD or plasma TV of the same size. LED TVs can also be about $2,000 cheaper than LCDs or plasmas of the same size depending on the features.

Plasmas seem to be the biggest energy waster, but even if you want to buy, or already have a huge plasma screen, there are a few ways to reduce your bill and conserve energy according to the United States Department of Energy:

TVs straight out of the box are usually set at the brightest picture for better quality. Turning the brightness down on your TV will save electricity.

Plug your TV and other electronics into a power strip that can be turned off easily. Did you know that TVs also use electricity even in standby mode? They need the extra energy so they can turn on instantly. CRT TVs use only a small fraction of energy in off mode compared to LCD and plasma TVs.

Limit the amount of TVs in your house or unplug the TVs you aren’t using. Extra TVs waste more energy. You really don’t need a TV in the bathroom, do you?

When you upgrade your TV, buy an Energy Star labeled TV and sell your old one. Don’t keep it in another room to waste electricity.

Reduce the amount of TV you watch and video games you play. According to the National Resources Defense Council, video gamers waste $100 a year by leaving video game systems on while not in use. Your kids can go without 12 hours of Spongebob and Mario Kart a day. Send them outside to play. It saves energy and promotes better health.



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