EnergyStar is the joint project by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that is designed to help consumers identifiy energy-efficient products before they make a buying decision. The problem of rating flat panel televisions is that it is a moving target. The average screen size is a lot larger than it was for picture tube (CRT) models, so it is reasonable that LCDs and plasmas draw more power. But the two technologies have different power profiles; LCD power consumption is governed largely by how bright the backlight shines, while plasma power use is affected by the bright and dark areas of an image on the screen. In addition, both technologies have been making marked improvements in energy efficiency.
As a result, the EnergyStar program has developed standards that change as time progresses. In order to wear the EnergyStar logo, a product must conform to the current standards. And new standards take effect tomorrow. The new requirements are based on the area of the display surface. High definition sets — which EnergyStar defines as having more than 480 lines of resolution — get to use more power than standard definition. There are different formulas for different screen sizes, but here are some examples. In order to meet the EnergyStar requirements, the set must not use more than the following amount of power (in Watts) at is maximum while on:
20″: 66 Watts
32″: 120 Watts
42″: 208 Watts
50″: 318 Watts
60″: 391 Watts
The next set of requirements have not yet been determined, but are slated to go into effect on September 1, 2010. You can find the specifications and other details at http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/product_specs/eligibility/tv_vcr_elig.pdf.
Energy consumption is definitely an issue with large televisions; they are the equivalent of having a handful of lightbulbs turned on when you’re watching them. Manufacturers understand that consumers care about “green” issues, both from the environmental side as well as spending as little “green” on electricity as possible. You can expect that the sets will become increasingly energy efficient with each new model series.