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August 5, 2008 By Adrienne Maxwell
The EPA just made life a little easier for the eco-conscious HDTV shopper.
It seems like every industry is touting products and services that are environmentally friendly, from cars to clothing to cleaning supplies. Gone is the long-held belief that technology and the environment will forever be at odds, as the tech sector is, in many ways, leading the charge to find solutions to the world’s environmental concerns.
Yet, in our own little corner of the tech universe, the popularity of consumer electronics products presents some challenges.
As HDTV prices drop, more people are buying bigger TVs, and that means more energy consumption. Eliminating toxic chemicals like lead and mercury from CE devices is no longer a novel idea but a mandated necessity. Electronic waste is a growing concern, as we cast aside last year’s It item and move on to the next cool thing.
The goal of our new EcoTech column isn’t to harp on the negatives or make you feel bad about the technologies you love. Hey, we love them, too. Our goal is to draw attention to the technologies, agencies, and manufacturers that are offering a new kind of ecocentric performance and to provide insights that help with your buying decisions.
It’s only fitting that we begin with the HDTV, the driving force of the CE industry right now. We will undoubtedly explore many environmental issues related to the HDTV, but none is more topical than the issue of power consumption. How do you know that one TV is more energy-efficient than the next?
LCD manufacturers will quickly respond that their technology uses less power than a comparably sized plasma, but that statement comes with some caveats (we’ll explore that in a future column). Up to now, there’s been no clear-cut stamp of approval to designate those TVs that are the most efficient in their everyday usage. That’s going to change on November 1, 2008—thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ENERGY STAR specification.
Wait a minute. ENERGY STAR isn’t new. We’ve been using it since 1992 to pick out refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances. And we’ve seen the ENERGY STAR label on TVs, DVD players, and other CE products.
Thus far, in the A/V realm, ENERGY STAR qualification has only designated how much power a product consumes in its standby state when you have powered it down with the remote but have not unplugged it. ENERGY STAR hasn’t been a measure of how much power the product consumes during actual use. For a TV to earn the ENERGY STAR label, it needs to use 1 watt or less of power in standby mode, and many current models default to energy-saving modes that allow them to meet this criteria.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, the EPA has developed a new ENERGY STAR specification for digital televisions that takes into account the “on mode” power consumption. To qualify for ENERGY STAR after November 1, a TV must still meet the 1-watt standby requirement, and its ...