By Mike Federman

In the world of television electronics, change came quickly.

Analog TV sets, in homes since the 1940s, became obsolete in 2009 without a digital convertor.

Television makers now entice consumers with claims of high definition, surround sound and multimedia compatibility.

Bigger screen, better picture, more options—and more energy consumption.

High-definition TV sets generally use more power because of better picture clarity. Energy consumption also relates to screen size. The larger the screen, the more electricity required.

Four general types of TVs are available: cathode ray tube (CRT) plasma, liquid-crystal display (LCD) and rear projection.

CRT televisions are the most difficult to find because they employ old technology. Screen sizes rarely top 40 inches.

Plasma screens often are cited as the largest energy user, mainly because their large 42-inch to 65-inch screens typically draw between 240 watts to 400 watts. Most consume electricity even when turned off.

LCD TVs don’t need much power to operate—111 watts on average. Most LCD screens range in size from 21 inches to 49 inches. These TVs fall into two categories: those with cold-cathode fluorescent lamps to illuminate the screen, and backlit models employing a light-emitting diode (LED). LED units offer several benefits, notably better picture quality, and thinner and lighter screens. They also use slightly less energy, at 101 watts.

Rear-projection televisions tend to be the most energy efficient and boast the largest screen sizes. However, due to their overall weight, rear projection sets are not as readily available as plasma and LCD models.

An American Tradition

Despite the growth of entertainment offerings on the Internet, television enthusiasts have not dimmed.

While overall television viewing in America grew less than 1 percent between 2009 and 2010, time-shifted viewing through the use of a digital video recording device increased 18.4 percent during the same period, according to the Nielson Co.

A 2009 Nielson report revealed the average American watches about 153 hours of TV every month at home.

With all of these televisions burning electricity, finding energy-efficient models is important to consumers who don’t want to burn a hole in their pocketbooks.

A good place to start saving money is at Energy Star, The joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency identifies energy-efficient electronics and appliances. The Energy Star label ensures a product meets efficiency guidelines and consumes less electricity than similar products that do not carry the Energy Star label.

Even more consumer information about televisions will be available this spring. Beginning May 11, all newly manufactured televisions must carry an EnergyGuide label. These familiar-looking yellow labels already are required on many home appliances, including washing machines, refrigerators and water heaters.

Because the mix of LCD, plasma and rear-projection televisions vary widely in the amount of energy they use, the Federal Trade Commission determined the label was necessary.

“By comparing information on the EnergyGuide labels, consumers will be able to make better-informed decisions about which model they choose to buy, based on how much it costs to operate per year,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says on the commission’s website.

The FTC will require a label with two main disclosures on new TV sets: the television’s estimated annual energy cost and a comparison with the annual energy cost of other televisions with similar screen sizes.

The rule requires the new labels to be visible from the front of televisions. Manufacturers can use either a triangular label or a rectangular label.

Beginning July 11, 2011, the amended rule will require websites that sell tele-visions to display an image of the full EnergyGuide label.

Shop For Energy Savings

Consumers in the Northwest can look for the orange “most efficient” label at participating retailers. The Energy Forward program identifies the most efficient televisions, computers and monitors on the market—those that surpass Energy Star ratings by up to 30 percent.

Internet Resources

Consumer Awareness
Televisions manufactured after May 10, 2011, must display EnergyGuide labels so consumers shopping for TVs can compare energy use.

Efficiency Quick Tip
Plug bundled devices—such as a TV and DVD player, or a computer, monitor and printer—into the same power strip. Turn off the power strip when you are not using the devices to conserve energy used by internal phantom power sources.

Brian Sloboda, a program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, contributed to this report.