How to Shop for an Energy-Efficient TV

If you’re ready to go big with your next TV purchase, you might be worried about whether such an upgrade will result in a spike in your electric bill. But for the most part, those worries are unfounded — high-performance TVs may cost you a little more to operate, but not enough to scare you away from getting the picture and features you’ve been dreaming of.

Your real opportunity to save doesn’t come from choosing one of the most energy-efficient TVs, but from using the TV of your choice in an energy-conscious way.

Energy Efficient TVs Are the New Normal

There was a time not long ago when you could find LCD TVs, plasma screen TVs and old-school cathode ray tube TVs all sitting alongside one another on retail shelves. But light emitting diode (LED) technology has evolved to become the new standard, and virtually all of today’s new TVs use either LEDs or OLEDs (organic light emitting diode) to light up their screens.

Both of these modern designs are extremely energy-efficient, with most sets consuming fewer than 150 watts. Even the most demanding models with screens larger than 70 inches usually use far fewer than 250 watts. At the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour and TV habits limited to a few hours a day, the annual power bill for a large LED TV could come in at less than $20.

For all but the biggest couch potatoes, the price difference between the most energy-efficient TVs and what passes for an “energy hog” nowadays is likely to be between $15 and $30 per year. So if you’re a tech-head who obsesses over product specs or you just want the biggest screen you can afford, don’t let energy consumption hold you back.

Shopping Tips for a New TV

On the other hand, if you do want to seek out energy efficient TVs that meet your needs, here are a few shopping tips:

  • The state-of-the-art OLED TVs not only have a higher sticker price, they can consume up to twice as much energy as standard LED TVs. Keep in mind that twice the energy consumption of an LED TV isn’t a huge increase in relative terms, but if energy conservation is your priority, LED is the way to go.
  • Even within the LED category, screens with higher resolutions and better displays, such as Ultra HD or 4k displays, generally consume more energy than standard HD displays.
  • When shopping for TVs at retail, use the black and yellow EnergyGuide labels to compare the energy efficiency of the models you’re considering. The annual cost estimates printed on these labels are based on five hours of TV watching per day and an electricity rate of 12 cents per kWh, but you can plug in your own data to get an even more customized estimate.

Saving Electricity With High-End TVs

Even though today’s TVs are more energy-efficient than ever before, there’s still a strong argument for prioritizing energy efficiency in the way you use them. There are some factory default settings — as well as some bad habits — that could add quite a bit to your TV watching bill.

Use these tips to keep your TV energy consumption as low as possible:

  • Don’t leave the TV on when no one is watching. It’s a no-brainer, but it’s the most important thing you can do to control your TV’s energy use. Your TV might have a setting that will turn it off automatically after a certain number of hours of inactivity.
  • Disable “always on” or “quick start” settings if they don’t make a difference to you. These settings may control voice activation features or reduce the amount of time it takes the TV to turn on initially, but they draw excess standby power. They might be enabled by default, so if you’ve never navigated your TV settings, check soon to see if your TV is using extra energy.
  • Dial down the screen brightness to the lowest level that suits your standards. Brighter screens consume more energy.
  • If you’re streaming music through your TV and don’t need the picture at all, you can dial the brightness all the way down or disable the display entirely, if your TV’s settings allow it.
  • Put a stop to all standby power consumption by connecting all the electronics in your entertainment center to a power strip and turning it off whenever you’re not watching TV.

No matter what type of TV you own, if it’s a modern LED or OLED model, the secret to energy efficiency is all in how you use it.