8 tips for buying a more eco-friendly HDTV

By Koushik Saha on 10.12.08

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If you've got even a modest concern for the environment or your bank balance, considering more energy-efficient devices could reduce your electricity usage and utility bills.

As the TV is an important part of many people's home entertainment set-up, here are eight tips to consider when looking for a greener model.
1. Avoid bargain TVs that may be less energy-efficient
In general, cheaper TVs may be built with less efficient components and energy saving measures. While the initial "investment" may be less, the long-term running costs could be higher, particularly for poorly-designed plasma sets.
2. Don't buy a larger TV than you really need

Larger TVs are very tempting, particularly when you see them lined up in a large showroom, but not only do you have to accommodate a screen somewhere in your home, but larger screens generally consume more energy than smaller ones.

It's frustrating because larger TVs often seem disproportionately priced compared to more modest ones, and retailers are often doing deals on 32+ inch TVs that you just don't see on 19, 22, and 26-inchers. However, consider that the ongoing running costs of larger TVs will be higher.
3. Check running and standby power consumption

Take a good look at the specifications sheet. You'll likely want to be doing this to find out what other features it has, but take a look at the various figures for the watts (or kilowatts) the TV consumes when in general use and also in standby.

Don't assume that every TV of the same type and size will consume the same amount of energy, even from the same manufacturer. There are many factors which influence how much juice a TV uses, so check out the raw figures to be sure. Don't forget that a plasma TV's power consumption will fluctuate during use.
4. LCD or plasma?

It's a long-held belief that plasma TVs use more energy than an equivalent LCD TV, when in fact plasma TVs use a variable amount of energy during operation and LCD TVs a fixed amount (without adjusting settings, that is).

It's far better to take into account the energy efficiency and specifications of individual TVs, and assess which type of TV is best for your viewing needs, than simply assume an LCD TV will consume less electricity.
5. Check if there's an OFF switch

The recent fashion on most consumer electronics goods is to remove the power button and replace it with a standby button. However, the trend is now swinging back (according to LG).

If there's no OFF switch, you'll have to switch the set off at the mains plug to stop it consuming electricity when you're not watching it.

Though the standby power consumption of modern TVs is generally pretty low, it's still using some.

If there's no OFF switch and the idea of unplugging the TV each day is a pain, consider buying some kind of power-saver block which allows certain devices to be completely switched off while allowing power to others (PVRs, set-top boxes, etc).
6. Look for energy efficiency ratings and awards

Several organisations now give out awards to electronics gear that's "best of class" in terms of power consumption. If you want to ensure that you're buying a TV that's considered to be amongst the most efficient currently available, based on expert measurements, look for marks from the likes of EnergyStar and EISA.
7. Set the TV to use eco-modes and auto-adjustments

It's common to find eco- and low-power modes on video projectors, but a little less common on TVs. However, some TVs now come with sensors that will automatically adjust various settings, such as brightness, based on the ambient light in the room. It's also worth noting that many TVs' default settings have been "optimised" for the bright lights of a showroom, and are set far too high for home use.

Adjusting the brightness, either manually or automatically, will not only save your eyesight, but could affect how much power your TV is using.

8. Avoid display gimmicks like "picture frame mode"

Some manufacturers have built in extra features which utilise the TV display when it's not being used for other things.

Displaying high resolution photos on your TV is a nice feature, but be careful of simply using the TV as a canvas when you're not actively viewing it. It's still using a significant amount of energy. Better to switch the set off if it's not really being used.

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