- All else being equal, how do the three most common
television screen technologies rank, from least to most energy intensive?
LCDs use the least energy of the three leading screen types, followed by plasma screens.
Old-fashioned CRT televisions use the most power, especially if it's a way-back-when Philco or Zenith -- two U.S. brands
that went defunct long before the arrival of American Idol.
Speaking of way back, give
yourself a point if you knew that Fifties guitar god Link Wray used way more energy than any x-ray machine.
- A plasma TV uses 30 percent more energy than the same size LCD version.
Plasma TVs use about 30 percent more electricity than the equivalent LCD.
As for which looks better or lasts longer, ask your favorite TV nerd -- and be prepared for some long answers.
- A CRT TV uses three times more energy than the same size LCD version.
True. Put your hand atop a tube TV and that warm feeling you get explains why they use so much more energy.
- An LCD TV always uses less energy than a CRT model.
False, because screen size can quickly overwhelm even an LCD's greater efficiency. For example, the surface area
of a 42-inch widescreen TV is four times that of a 20-inch model with the old 4:3 screen ratio.
So even though the LCD is more efficient, square inch for square inch, ditching a 20-inch
CRT for a 42-inch LCD (a typical upgrade) means you'll actually use 20 percent more energy.
That 42-incher seems downright thrifty, compared to a 65-inch model, which uses more than three
times the power of the 20-inch model.
- What should you do with your old TV?
If you move that old TV to another room, it's easy to wind up watching more, not
less, television. Stashing it in the garage will at least pull the plug on its power-sucking days --
and it is much safer than sending it to the landfill. Best of all:
Use the National Center for Electronics Recycling (www.ncerwv.org/) to find a nearby recycling center where it can be safely disposed.
- How much electricity is used each year in the U.S. watching TV?
The staggering answer: All of the above. If you're not actually watching the tube, turn it off.
If you don't like feeling alone, use a radio or maybe sing to yourself.
- How much of that power is consumed by TVs idling in standby mode?
Standby mode consumes 10 to 23 percent of all that juice.
Consider plugging all your electronics into timer-equipped power strips to
turn them off completely, at least overnight. In November, it will be much
easier to get a fix on a TV's standby vs. active power demands when the federal
Energy Star program (http://www.energystar.gov/) begins including that information in its ratings.
- Under federal law, TV broadcasters have to switch next year
to digital-only signals. That means everyone with old analog TVs must purchase a digital TV to keep watching their favorite shows.
OK, this one's a little tricky. Come Feb. 17, 2009, analog TV signals will cease being broadcast.
But 88 percent of all households get their programs via cable or satellite, so analog TVs in those
households can keep plugging along just fine. And even if you don't have cable or satellite, you'll be able to
purchase a digital-to-analog converter -- a much less expensive option than replacing the entire set.
- Will the U.S. save energy once everyone eventually switches from CRTs to the latest LCD and plasma screens?
Each new generation of LCD and plasma screens may be more efficient, with organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs)
the current just-over-the-horizon favorite. The rub comes from how big screens often shoulder
their way into your house with lots of friends: surround speaker systems, DVD/DVR machines, cable/HD set tops,
and game consoles like the Xbox or Wii. Given that it's common to have such gear in multiple rooms,
one study estimates that homes with multiple TVs and their related peripherals
can use twice as much juice as a refrigerator, long the fattest electrical hog in every household.
- Bonus Question: When I get my new big screen TV, the first thing I want to watch is:
De gustibus non est disputandum....