Which TV Is the Most Energy Efficient?
Here’s a guest post from my resident gadget freak, Jason. (Yes, I agreed to a new TV in exchange for a blog post.)
I’ve been contemplating replacing our old TV (a 13-year-old Sony Trinitron KV-27S42) for a while now. Brenda argued that the CRT was perfectly fine, but I’ve finally talked her into a Samsung UN40ES6500 by speaking to her interests: energy efficiency. So why did I wait so long? I was honestly never particularly impressed with the quality of the picture on the LCD TVs that had come out in the last five years or so (at least the ones under $1,000), and plasma TVs were too big for my living room and too energy-sucking. It’s only recently that I’ve felt like LCDs (or LED-backlit LCDs) have hit the picture quality that’s equivalent to my old Sony, making it attractive to switch over.
There are three types of TVs on the market today:
- Plasma TVs operate by creating an electrical voltage across a sealed pocket of mercury and noble gases. It’s pretty much like a billion tiny neon signs that can be turned on and off individually.
- Pros: The best picture quality and deepest blacks.
- Cons: They pretty much only come in large or extra-large sizes. And they’re so energy hungry that most of them are not Energy Star certified. The average plasma TV draws between 200W and 350W, depending on screen size. For comparison, our 13-year-old Sony TV draws 140W. (If you walk by them at Best Buy, you can actually feel the heat radiating off them.)
- LCD TVs work by layering what are essentially liquid crystal shutters over a light source (in this case, a type of fluorescent light). Opening and closing the shutters lets different amounts of light through colored filters.
- LED TVs use the same shuttering system as LCDs but have switched out the fluorescent lights with an array of LEDs, either across the back or around the edges.
- Pros: Thinnest (only about 2″!) and the lowest power consumption (between 50W and 100W) across a larger range of screen sizes.
- Cons: Highest price per square inch (between $200 and $500 more than comparable plasma and LCD models).
If you can wait a few more years before upgrading, OLED TVs look promising. They have better picture quality than plasma, LCD, or LED, with even lower power usage. But they’re super expensive right now (like, $12,000). Also, the technology still has some problems: the blue LED chemicals start to degrade within five years, leading to a short life for a very expensive set.
LEDs are the obvious winners for us right now, but why did I choose the specific model I did? The first thing that I looked at was screen size. I used Samsung’s room size calculator to figure out the best size TV for my living room: 40″ for a 9-foot viewing distance. Internet wisdom seems to indicate that bigger is better, but I couldn’t stand to have the TV dominate our living room any more than it already does. Since plasmas pretty much only come in sizes larger than 40″, they were ruled out right off the bat, without even considering their energy use. My next step was to go straight to the Energy Star Most Efficient HDTV listings. The most energy efficient TVs listed were hospitality TVs and didn’t have the necessary inputs for home use. After ruling those out I compared reviews and features for the remaining TVs on CNET and Amazon. I ended up selecting the Samsung UN40ES6500 because it included a lot of the perks that I liked (Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, 3DTV) and a clean design (so thin!) while still using only about $10 per year of electricity.
How much electricity a TV uses isn’t a big deal when compared with the larger energy hogs in the house, like the hot water heater, washer/dryer, dishwasher, or refrigerator. But if I’m going to make a large purchase every ten years or so, energy efficiency might as well be a factor in my decision making. Over the course of 10 years, the difference in energy use between a 55″ plasma and our 40″ LED could amount to $530. Not bad.