Black Friday Shopper's Guide to Energy Efficient TVs

The countdown to Black Friday has already begun and for many of us who choose to brave the crowds, our shopping lists include big ticket holiday items such as the latest and greatest HD flat screen TVs.

Luckily - right in time for the holiday season - there is a brand new generation of energy-efficient TVs on the market. These models may use two to three times less energy than other TVs on the store shelves - meaning these former home energy hogs are on a liquid diet, just sipping a fraction of the energy it takes to run their not-so-distant cousins from just a few years past. 

But there is one small catch - it's not that easy to tell which TVs are the most efficient ones.  That's because the current version of ENERGY STAR, Version 3.0 is not very stringent and almost all models in the store today have the ENERGY STAR label on them.  To their credit, the EPA has created a new version called Version 4.0 that goes into effect in May 2010.  Unfortunately there is no easy way for consumers to easily determine which models meet the more efficient ENERGY STAR 4.0.  That's where NRDC comes in.... 

To find the models on the market today that meet the ENERGY STAR 4.0 power requirements, we've written up a shopping guide for you.  

These models are smart buys -- they'll keep your electric bills down but still give you the same great picture and sound quality provided by the high tech TVs of today. 

Of course - while making sure the TV you buy meets the Energy Star 4.0 power limits is the most important step you can take to shopping energy-smart, there are a few more tips to enjoying your TV while keeping your energy bills in check:

First (or really second) - Only buy as big a TV as you really need.  In general, bigger TVs use more energy and cost more to operate than smaller ones. 

Second (or really third) - Adjust the brightness.  When setting up your new TV, be sure to pick the "home" mode setting.  This setting may cut your power use by up to 25% compared to other settings such as "vivid" or "retail" which are unnecessarily bright for most users.

Lastly - if you're swapping out an old TV for a new one, be sure to dispose of the old one properly (after all - older CRT televisions contain 4-8 pounds of lead, along with various other toxic materials, and no one needs that in our landfills). So....

Recycle your old TV. This helps reduce the pollution and energy use tied to the production of new electronics, and keeps hazardous materials out of landfills.

  • The Electronics TakeBack Coalition (NRDC is a member of ETBC) provides this map with links to responsible recyclers in each state. 
  • ETBC also provides this guide of TV companies that have take-back programs.

And while you're taking steps in your own life, I should note what NRDC is doing on its end to ensure all TVs become as energy-smart as possible. Beyond our work with Energy Star, we were also a part of a recent victory in California - last week the California Energy Commission adopted the most advanced TV energy efficiency standards in the world. The new standards will make new TVs sold in California 30-50 percent more efficient and put almost a billion dollars a year back into the California economy in the form of lower electricity bills. Plus, the electricity saved will be equal to the amount used by all the homes in Oakland and Anaheim annually, and the new standard will also eliminate the need for California to build a new, large-sized 500 MW power plant, reducing carbon emissions equal to removing 500,000 cars from the road.  Sounds like a pretty good plan, right? 

Hopefully, that win will become the model for things to come around the world.  Stay tuned.