California Pushes Energy Savings

It used to be that a 35″ TV was about as big as you’d get for home use. Now many people are buying rear-projection and flat panel displays that are much larger, and there are concerns that these sets are more power hungry than the TVs that they replace. As is often the case, California is trying to get out in front on this issue. While the federal government has its optional Energy Star program, the California Energy Commission (CEC) wants to legislate energy consumption requirements for television sets.

The state already requires that all TVs sold in California (manufactured after January 1, 2006) consume no more than 3 watts of power when in standby mode. The proposed new regulations cover maximum power on usage. Sets built after January 1, 2011 with a screen area of 1,400 square inches or less will have to consume no more than 0.2 watts per square inch plus 32. For a 42″ set, that works out to about 183 watts, or about the same as three typical incandescent light bulbs. On January 1, 2013, the formula changes to no more than 0.12 watts per square inch plus 25. For a 42″ set, that will be about 115 watts, or about two incandescent light bulbs.

One interesting fact is that the CEC indicates that there are 848 sets already on the market that meet the 2011 standard, which would seem to imply that manufacturers could probably bring their products into compliance with next year’s models. The CEC also indicates that these new standards are likely to save consumers $18 to $30 a year, which hardly seems like a compelling incentive on a $500 or $1,000 purchase, until you consider the average lifespan for a TV set is 10 years or more. The CEC action has triggered strong reactions, both in favor and opposition. Some complaints predict doom, with massive job losses resulting from the new rules. One interesting complaint is that the new rules don’t allow for additional features that are not directly part of the TV functions and that could consume more power, such as Internet connections, on-screen caller ID features, or video calls.

You might be curious about the 1,400 square inch cap on the proposed regulations. This corresponds to a set a bit smaller than 58″ diagonal. The CEC determined that while sets 58″ and larger make up a tiny part of the overall sales, they are the major part of the sales for the custom installers and home theater integrators. The CEC intends to issue separate requirements for these larger sets, hoping to balance the desire to conserve energy with minimizing the impact on these small businesses.

The CEC will be holding a hearing on the proposed regulations on October 13, and you can find find related documents available for downloading at http://www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/2009_tvregs/documents/index.html.