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Isn't this a great time for consumers who are interested in purchasing a new television set?

In some respects, yes. You can go online to a number of Web sites and compare prices on specific makes and models to get a great deal. Total average TV prices have fallen over the past three years. Inventory of flat-screen TVs built up in the first half of 2010, leading some forecasters to predict a rapid price fall at the end of 2010. The trend toward more energy-efficient models has also taken a leap forward over the past year or two. Some of today's models use a fraction of the energy that similar models made several years ago consume.

But in terms of energy conservation, it hasn't always been a wonderful time for consumers. Though energy-efficient models are on the market, it's not always easy to identify them. But that's all about to change.

You're probably familiar with the yellow EnergyGuide label. It appears on all new clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, window air conditioners, central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and pool heaters sold in the United States. I always use these labels to comparison shop when I need one of those appliances. Later this year, add television sets to that list.

The EnergyGuide label for televisions will look similar to this sample from the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is requiring television manufacturers to display EnergyGuide labels on their sets after May 10, 2011, to provide consumers shopping for TVs more information about different models and how much energy they use. In addition to identifying the make and model, the EnergyGuide label must display two pieces of information: first, the television's estimated annual energy cost; and second, a comparison with the annual energy cost of other televisions with similar screen sizes. New labels must be visible from the front of the television sets. Manufacturers can use either a triangular label or a rectangular label. Moreover, beginning in July 11, 2011, Web sites that sell televisions will be required to display an image of the full EnergyGuide label.

"Unlike many years ago, before flat screens and plasma, today's televisions vary widely in the amount of energy they use," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "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."

More good things are coming in 2011 for consumers shopping for television sets. We'll have more on those next month!