New Rules for Flat Screens

New rules for Energy Star labels on flat-screen TVs will require them to be 40% more efficient than conventional models.
© The California Energy Commission

If you've long suspected that the brilliant, digital, 50-inch image you were enjoying on your new flat-screen TV was sucking up a bit more energy than your old model, pat yourself on the back. Here are how the various models stack up, energy-wise, according to the California Energy Commission: a 30-inch old-school cathode ray television consumes 101 watts, a 36-inch LCD, 144 watts, a 48-inch Plasma TV…wait for it…361 watts. And Plasmas are worse than LCDs: a 42-inch LCD uses 203 watts; a 42-inch Plasma, 271 watts. It used to be that the home refrigerator was the big energy hog, using five times the electricity of a home television—not any more.

The commission reports that in the Golden State, bigger, better TVs in conjunction with the requisite DVRs, DVD players and cable boxes, consume a whopping 10% of a home's electricity. In April 2009, the commission proposed new efficiency standards that would require all TVs sold in California to use 50% less energy by 2013, affecting TVs made beginning in January 2011. The measure was due to be voted on this summer.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have preempted them—at least in making TVs that are energy efficient even more so. On September 3, 2009, the EPA announced that it will now require TVs to be 40% more efficient than conventional models to qualify for an Energy Star label as of May 1, 2010. According to the agency, the new requirements for 46- and 50-inch TV models will deliver almost 50% savings over conventional models of the same size. In terms of savings for both consumers and the environment, the EPA puts it this way: "If all televisions sold in the United States met the new Energy Star requirements, Americans would save $2.5 billion annually in energy costs while reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions of about 3 million cars."

SOURCES: California Energy Commission; Energy Star; The New York Times.