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Perhaps I'm showing my age, but it seems it wasn't long ago that a 27" screen TV was considered large. Now, with ever larger Plasma and LCD thin televisions coming to market, the old 19", 20", and 27" models are downright tiny. As the screen size increases, however, so too at times does the energy consumption. This has not gone unnoticed by utility companies, energy specialists, and governments, who have become alarmed by the increasing electricity usage due to "electricity guzzling" television sets. According to the U.S. EPA, there are about 275 million TVs currently in use in the United States, consuming 4% of all household electricity use—enough electricity to power all the homes in the state of New York for an entire year.

As you probably know, current plans call for full-power broadcast television stations in the United States to stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital beginning in mid-February 2009. Those with older analog television sets will need to purchase a digital converter box if they wish to continue to receive over-the-air broadcasts. This regulation may also be an incentive for many to retire their old analog sets and purchase one of those sleek, thin digital TVs. How do you find one that won't break your monthly electricity budget?

As of November 2008, a new, much more stringent ENERGY STAR® specification for TVs, Version 3.0, went into effect that includes requirements for both standby and, for the first time, active modes. Standby power is the "vampire" load that the TV consumes when it is turned off. Active power is the electrical draw when the TV set is turned on. TVs that earn the ENERGY STAR label under these requirements will be up to 30% more efficient than non-qualified models. Visit the ENERGY STAR TV Web site and click on the Product List in the right-hand column, either the Excel spreadsheet or the Adobe PDF version, to view the on (active) mode power, standby power, and estimated annual energy consumption for a large number of makes and models. There is a variety of screen sizes, resolutions, and technologies (LCD, Plasma, and other) that you can compare.

A lot of recent news is good news for the consumer.

A GreenTech Media blog reports that the California Energy Commission (CEC) wants to pass regulations that will place limits on the amount of energy consumed by televisions sold within the state starting with TVs coming out in 2011. The CEC estimates that consumers will save $18 to nearly $30 a year in their power bills. Federal appliance standards have helped the consumer considerably over the past decades, and this state effort should be no different.

Don't be alarmed if you live in California. It doesn't mean that you won't be able to go out and buy that half-inch-thick large screen TV you've been saving to buy. According to the GreenTech Media blog, the L.A. Times reports that roughly 87% of the TVs on the market today already meet the standards that the CEC is contemplating. Sales of only the "energy hogs" will be banned. More stringent standards are planned for two years later.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is often seen as setting the trend for what consumers will be buying in the near future. According to the Washington Post, energy-saving technology is one of those trends this year. By the looks of the announcements coming out of the CES held in Las Vegas in early January 2009, even the most stringent standards shouldn't be a problem.

One Japanese TV manufacturer reports that all Fall 2008 and 2009 LCD high-definition televisions (HDTVs) will be energy efficient, meeting the EPA's Energy Star® Version 3.0 standards. 

Another Japanese manufacturer says it will reduce the power consumption in its plasma TVs by two-thirds by 2010 or 2011 by reducing the number of components in plasmas, which need more components than LCD TVs, and by directing more of the light coming from the light source to the screen itself.

NOTE: DOE /EERE does NOT endorse any product or manufacturer. I just want to report that there's a lot of good news for the energy-conscious consumer, and that many makes and models with high efficiency are entering the marketplace now, later this year, and in the coming years. Keep checking the ENERGY STAR TV Web site as more of these high-efficiency makes and models are added.

Finally, should you decide to trade in your old TV for a new model, be sure to dispose of it in an environmentally sound manner. Many manufacturers and retailers have committed to collecting, reusing, or recycling your old television sets and other electronics. Plug into the EPA's eCycling program to find a local eCycling partner near you.