The average household watches over three hours of television every day, and televisions account for four to five percent of all household power. That’s a significant drain on energy resources. Not all televisions have the same energy requirements, however, so knowing how to choose a TV can help you select the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly model.
In this TV buying guide we’ll cover what to look for when buying a TV, how to tell the difference between different types of TV, and how to choose a TV based upon its ecological impact. We’ll explain how to calculate TV size based on viewing distance, and how to dispose of old televisions in the most ecologically responsible way.
Choosing an Energy Efficient TV
Today’s televisions are more energy efficient than the old cathode ray tube TVs of the 1980s and 1990s. A modern TV consumes an average of 150 Watts. Based on an national average of twelve cents an hour and national TV viewing averages, this amounts to less than $20 a year in power for a large LED television.
That’s not to say that televisions don’t have an ecological impact. Like other electrical devices they draw their power from the utility grid, which relies primarily on coal and other fossil fuels. The production of televisions also results in the emission of greenhouse gases and waste products. You need to know what eco-friendly features to look for when buying a TV. Consider, for instance, the following factors:
- Is the TV recyclable? While most of the electronics within the television may be recyclable as e-waste, the plastic housing of the TV may not be. Most televisions do use recyclable plastics, so up to 98 percent of the television can be recycled if disposed of properly.
- Does the TV have an ENERGY STAR label? Televisions carrying the ENERGY STAR label are at least 25 percent more efficient than standard TV models when in stand-by and active modes. If every television in the USA met ENERGY STAR standards, the resulting drop in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.
- Have you chosen the right size of television? As you’d expect, a 55-inch television consumes less power than a 70-inch behemoth. People often opt for the largest possible television, but a larger screen doesn’t always give you the best viewing experience and wastes energy.
TV Size and Distance in a Room
Of all the decisions that go into choosing a TV, screen size is often the most important consideration. As noted above, bigger is not always better. You need to consider how close you’ll sit to the television as well as the size of your room.
How close you should sit to a television depends on the different types of TV. For instance, for HD televisions, sit at a distance three times more than the height of the TV screen. For UDH, you can sit much closer, at 1.5 times the height of the screen.
In most cases, the typical living room is large enough for a 55- to 65-inch television. The smaller the room, the smaller the TV screen needs to be, so for a bedroom, a 40-inch screen or less is more than large enough.
Different types of TV consume different amounts of energy, so understanding UHD vs. QLED vs. HDR is important. Each of the three are acronyms for different types of television display:
- UHD: Ultra High Definition
- QLED: Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diode
- HDR: High Dynamic Range
UHD TV, or Ultra High Definition Television, describes a 4K resolution screen with 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2,160 vertical pixels. This comes out to a total of 8.3 million pixels on a UHD TV screen, allowing for four times the detail of older 1080p HD televisions. The result is an incredibly sharp image with smooth movement and deep, vibrant colors.
A UHD television consumes approximately thirty percent more energy than a standard HD screen. Turning on Automatic Brightness Controls (ABC) improves a UHD TV’s energy efficiency.
HDR stands for high-dynamic range, which produces more color detail, brighter highlights, and a broader contrast for a deeper, richer image. Almost all mid-range and high-end televisions sold today are HDR-compatible. HDR TVs are also brighter: while a standard dynamic range TV produces 300 to 500 nits, HDR can display more than 2,000 nits (a unit is a unit of brightness).
This much higher brightness range demands much more power. Watching a show in HDR consumes almost fifty percent more power than watching the same show in a normal dynamic range.
QLED stands for Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diode and is an advancement on older LED TV screens. The screen of a QLED TV is made from tiny semiconductor crystals called quantum dots. Most often seen on Samsung televisions, QLED supports 4K resolution, and makes exceptionally thin, lightweight televisions possible.
While not quite as energy-efficient as an LED screen, a QLED consumes less energy than either HDR or UHD televisions. Remember as well many QLEDs are HDR-compatible, which will increase their energy consumption.
What Else to Look for When Buying a TV
No TV buying guide is complete if it only talks about screen types. A wide range of factors need to be considered when buying a television, from the quality of its speakers to its remote control battery. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your new television:
- Refresh Rates: A television’s refresh rate determines the smoothness of the images on the screen. Look for a 60 Hz or 120 Hz refresh rate: When it comes to refresh rates, 60 Hz is good, but 120 Hz is better. If you plan on using the television mostly for gaming, 120 Hz is your best choice.
- Sound Quality: The quality of a television’s speakers has an impact on its price. Many televisions have subpar speakers as the thinness of the television restricts the type of speakers that can be used. You may want to connect a sound bar to your television to improve the sound, although this does result in your entertainment system drawing more energy.
- HDMI Ports: HDMI ports are needed to connect gaming consoles and other peripherals to your television. Four HDMI ports should allow you to connect everything you need. If possible, choose a TV that supports HDMI 2.1, which gives you higher video resolution and more bandwidth.
- USB Ports: While not as important as HDMI ports, USB ports are useful to view photos and videos on USB drives. Look for a television with two or three USB ports.
- Smart TV Platforms: Make sure your smart TV is compatible if you use a smart home assistant or hub. Smart TVs often offer large app libraries. While these can be helpful, most people will probably only use the main streaming services, such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO.
How to Dispose of Your Old TV in an Eco-Friendly MannerRecycling your old television keeps hazardous materials out of the environment. Depending on the age of your old TV, it may contain cadmium, lead, and mercury. Modern televisions also contain rare metals that can be extracted to make new products, reducing the need to mine for such materials.
Televisions are large items that take up valuable space in landfills. Fortunately, there are several ways to either recycle your television or help extend its working life. Possibilities include
- Returning your television to the manufacturer. Many major TV brands now have recycling programs.
- Take the television to a local recycling facility.
- Contact Call2Recycle and arrange to send them the television.
- Donate old working TVs to local charities or thrift stores.
- Sell televisions on eBay, Craigslist, or other online sites.
- Give your old television to someone who needs one.
With a little planning, most televisions can be at least partially recycled, and newer models are generally designed to be recycled at the end of their life. Manufacturers are also working towards more energy-efficient models, which will place less of a burden on the power grid, reducing your fossil fuel consumption. In the meantime, opt for the most eco-friendly television you can find!
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