With all the innovations in TV flat panel technology and decreasing prices, now is a great time to buy a new TV. However, the amount of energy some TVs gobble up can really add to your electric bill, especially during this summer’s sweltering temps when the AC is running almost non-stop. Some of the biggest TVs, for example, can use as much electricity as a 500 kWh refrigerator (and put out almost as much heat).
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Energystar has a guide to help you choose the most Energy Efficient TV no matter what size you are looking for. Of course, it’s good to have a basic idea how the TVs work. To be sure, TVs have come a long way from the bulky consoles of the 1960s and 1970s.
Electron guns vs Pixels
Old cathode ray tube (CRTs) TVs had big glass vacuum picture tubes. Each one had an electron gun that fired electrons down the glass barrel and fluoresced when they hit the coating on the back of the picture tube. CRTs used lots of energy, gave off lots of heat, weighed a lot, and took up lots of room. One thing they didn’t have was a lot of resolution. New flat panel TVs have nearly 2 1/2 times the resolution and screen size, plus many have micro processors that smooth-out the frame rates on old Hollywood movies that made them look jerky on old CRT TVs.
Currently, there are three screen technologies contending in the flat panel ring: LCD, LED, and plasma. These flat screens have largely out-competed big Digital Light Processing (DLP) TVs. DLPs used a single lamp and micro-mirrors to project light through a color wheel. They are still available but hard to find since manufactures are concentrating on developing LCD, LED, and plasma products. LCD panels create a digital image on a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and uses a cold cathode fluorescent lamp mounted on a panel behind it to illuminate the screen. LED flat panels use the same LCD screen to present the image, but instead us Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to light up the screen (either from behind or the sides). Technically, they’re LED-backlit LCD TVs. The difference is that LCD flat panels with the one fluorescent lamps have a fairly static picture. LED TV’s have hundreds of LEDs that can be controlled independently and thus can offer a more dynamic and adaptable picture.
Plasma TVs use neon and xenon gas in tiny trios of capsules that form a pixel. When a pixel is zapped by electricity, the gas in each capsules turns into plasma. As soon as the zapping stops, the pixel emits ultraviolet light that hit red, green, or blue phosphors and thus creates the color of that pixel. In an HD 1920 x 1080 plasma TV there are 3,000 pixels. Of course, the image color and the speed of the screen is the reason to buy them. Plasma sets have better contrast ratios, provide wider viewing angles, handle fast action with better clarity, and produce richer levels of black.
While every TV model has its issues but there are some general things to keep in mind:
- Size matters. The bigger the TV, the more energy it will use.
- Plasma TV’s tend to run hotter. After all, they are making colors by charging gas into plasma. They even have small fans mounted on the inside to exhaust hot air. Energy.gov rates the energy efficiency of plasma sets from 127.3 kWh/year for a 42 inch TV up to 194.14 kWh/year for a 60 inch. While high when compared to LED back lit sets, they are roughly 3 times more miserly with their usage than earlier plasma sets.
- Plasma sets are somewhat usually heavier —so keep it in mind when considering mounting it on the wall.
- All the current top-rated energy efficient TVs are LED back-lit LCD screens. These use use less energy than the cold florescent tubes.
- Under-powered sound systems. Some energy efficient TVs sacrifice audio power. While you might have a great looking set, you might need to turn the volume all the way up to hear anything. Always remember to consider the audio specs.
So, without any further adieu, the 2012 Energy.gov Energy Efficiency winners are:
For Small TVs (22, 24, and 27 inch diagonal screen measurement):
- Magnavox 22ME601B/F7 (LED) LCD, 21.6 inch, 29.922 kWh/year
- Insignia NS-24E730A12 (LED) LCD, 23.6 inch, 42.1 kWh/year
- LG T27B350ND (LED) LCD, 27 inch, 72.22 kWh/year
Medium sized TVs (32, 37, 40, 42 inch diagonal screen measurement):
- Samsung H32B (LED) LCD, 32 inch, 50.67 kWh/year
- Panasonic TC-L37E3 (LED) LCD, 37 inch, 72.6 kWh/year
- Samsung UN40EH5300F (LED) LCD, 40 inch, 60.92 kWh/year
- LG 42LS56## (LED) LCD, 42 inch, 83 kWh/year
Large sized TVs (46, 50, 60 inch diagonal screen measurement); multiple series models listed:
- Samsung UN46EH5300F (LED) LCD, 46 inch, 77.34 kWh/year
- Samsung UN50EH5000F, UN50EH5050F, UN50EH5070F, UN50EH5300F (LED) LCD, 50 inch, 87.16 kWh/year
- Sharp LC-60C8470U, LC-60LE845U, LC-60LE847U (LED) LCD, 60 inch, 104.51 kWh/year