Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Flat screen TV's - which is more energy efficient?

With every outlet we added to our kitchen, and throughout the rest of Humphrey House, it has given us a lot more opportunity to crank up the amps and our usage of electricity. While we've brought the house up to date (and up to code), sometimes I wonder if it would be better off if we didn't make electronics as easy to use. Especially when learning that televisions alone account for 1% of the US electricity use each day.

At any rate, when our designer laid out a plan to make the newly combined living space, the family room portion of our kitchen area had a nice feature laid out on it: A flat screen TV. As a red-blooded American male, I began to drool uncontrollably and have clear visions (which were, of course, in High Definition) of how to enjoy the space. Fortunately, Jen was soon dabbing my mouth with a handkerchief. The reality of budgets soon evaporated those dreams, and we pressed on with more important things to purchase for the kitchen. Like an oven and fridge, for instance.

However, once the original kitchen and PO's former bedroom were actually combined into one space, we were able to get a true feel for the new space. Something tangible that was simply too hard to grasp from a piece of paper where 1/4" was supposed to equal a foot. So once we saw the true shape of the room, we realized that the space would be awfully tight to accommodate any kind of couch and traditional entertainment center.

So, the dream of a flat screen crept back. A TV in this area is important not just as a staple of the modern American family room, but also because Jen is a self-admitted television junkie, and she was also looking forward to being able watch shows while cooking (I've been secretly hoping the Food network will be on a lot). We soon realized, that given the space, we would be forced to resort to David's original idea of a flat screen TV. There was no other choice. No, really. (Jay's fist pumping in the background as Jen agrees to the decision).

Anyway, I did a fair amount of research to find out how today's televisions use electricity, because I've been trying to be conscious about the amount we're using. After visiting a few sites, it was apparent that while flat screens use more energy than the old TV's they replace (cathode tubes), there is a difference between LCD and plasma technology. LCD's can use around half the energy that a plasma TV uses. A typical example might be:

  • Cathode Tubes = 100 watts
  • LCD = 200 watts
  • Plasma = 400, up to 600 watts
Here's a fun quote:
"In smaller screen sizes – say, less than 40 inches – LCD televisions are generally more efficient than CRT televisions, especially when you are comparing HDTV models... In large screen sizes – the 50 inch and above category – a projection TV is likely to be your most efficient buy... For intermediate sizes in the 40 to 50 inch range, it is difficult to pick a real efficiency champion. Most TVs sold in this category today are LCD or plasma flat-panel displays, and these two technologies are still evolving so rapidly that characterizing their efficiency by technology is difficult. " -

Interestingly, I learned that one of the reasons new TV's use so much more energy is because even when you turn them off, they are still in a semi-on state called "standby" which can still draw a fair amount of electricity (25% in some cases). Why standby? So that they power up quickly to satiate our demands for instant gratification.

So while Energy Star doesn't yet have a rating for flat screen TVs, we looked up power ratings and happily settled on a 37" LCD television from Visio, which, while in the "small" category based on the breakdown quoted above, seems quite large to us, and fills the corner of the room wonderfully. We got a wall mount bracket for the television, and I had the foresight to run an 1 1/2" PVC pipe in the wall before our foam insulation was sprayed in, so we can hide all the wires.
And let me tell, you picture just doesn't do it justice. The television looks incredible in real life!

Now if only we can get the Food Network to automatically come up by default each time the television is turned on...


dynochick (Jan) said...

I never gave that any thought, that the new TVs would draw more power.

Dang....but they are so wonderful to watch. Maybe we'll just have to sit in the dark to compensate for the additional power usage.

Pass the remote...I wanna watch Antique Road Show!!!!

Jennifer said...

So it sounds like you could cut the energy usage of your new LCD TV even MORE by plugging it into a power strip and turning it totally off when you are not watching it!

You could even turn it on and off with the power strip.

It might be as efficient as old ones then.

Sandy said...

One other energy drain is anything that has a digital clock... like for instance the stove, the cable box, stereo. The only problem with unplugging them or shutting them off with the power strip is that you have to reprogram them every time you turn them back on. That would get old after awhile. Sigh. Time to get rid of the incadesent light bulbs!

jay said...

Hmm.. A power strip might be difficult with the wall-mount, but I could probably make the outlet the TV is plugged into a switched outlet to take care of the standby power issue. Interesting idea.

zinny said...

Most electrical products, appiances, and toys that plug into the wall are constantly drawing some current. Even your car is pulling off you battery when it's "off". A lot of people will pull the plugs or trip the power stips when they go on vacations or something.

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