Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This Evolution Will Be Televised

Wall Street Journal
February 24, 2009

Amid mounting environmental concerns, TV manufacturers are racing to make energy-efficient sets, with some now launching "eco" branded TVs.

Vizio Inc., Funai Electric Co. and Sharp Corp., for instance, recently unveiled TVs that claim power savings that exceed the U.S. government's latest "Energy Star" standards for TVs by as much as 29%. Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp., are also launching energy-efficient TVs.

Some of the TVs, such as one model from Vizio's "EcoHD" models, use fewer or different lamps to illuminate the screen, thereby reducing power use. Funai Electric, which manufactures and distributes Philips-branded flat-panel TVs in the U.S., has two series of eco TVs that save power through a dimming technology that adjusts the brightness of the backlight on the LCD panel based on the ambient light in the room.

Most TVs still consume a small amount of power when they are turned off -- something Sony targeted when it came up with an energy-savings switch on some models that cuts off the TV's power consumption when the set is off without interfering with other devices, such as a DVR. The TV also comes with a motion sensor that turns off the device's backlight if no motion is detected in the room after a certain period of time.

The rush for eco-friendly TVs comes as many consumers are looking for ways to save money on their utility bills. According to the California Energy Commission, TVs rank third in the amount of power used in a home, behind heating-and-cooling systems and refrigerators. When associated devices -- cable boxes or game consoles -- are included, TV set-ups consume roughly 10% of the electricity in a home, the commission says.

TV makers may also be working to pre-empt new energy regulations. While the Energy Star standard is voluntary, the California Energy Commission is considering mandating specific energy standards for TVs sold in California by 2011. Under the proposed rules, a 42-inch TV sold in California must consume 183 watts or less, which translates to 183 watt-hours when it's on for an hour, dropping to 115.5 watts by 2013. Currently, a 40- to 42-inch LCD TV consumes 200 to 250 watts of electricity, according to the LCD TV Association.

Many TV makers aren't waiting for regulations to go into effect. Some 70% of world-wide flat-panel display shipments will have green features by 2012, up from 20% in 2008, predicts research firm DisplaySearch.

The new TVs are finding favor with some consumers. After getting a $186 electric bill in early December, Matt Walters, a Web developer in Richmond, Va., decided to look for ways to reduce his electricity use. He quickly targeted his 50-inch plasma TV, which has a digital video recorder, Blu-ray player and other devices connected to it.

"I started looking for devices that were more guilty than others," says Mr. Walters, 29. "The plasma TV was one of the first things" he identified.

Mr. Walters bought a few power strips to connect the TV and other devices together and got in the habit of turning it off when he wasn't using it. When his electric bill arrived the next month, he says to his surprise he saved $27. He plans to pay more attention to the power use of the electronics he buys, and adds that he would consider an energy-efficient TV for his next purchase.


No comments: