Green TVs – Green with Envy, or Sustainable?

TV GreenFlat screen TVs promise to be a top seller this winter season.  Apparently, there is an over-supply on the market and the retail outlets will be aggressively pushing them out the door. 

Over the last few years, flat screen TV prices have continued to drop while quality continues to improve and the screen surface expands.   Larger screens drives power consumption and the EPA estimates that TVs account for 4% of your power consumption.  That’s a nice chunk of your carbon footprint.

If you are in the market for a new TV, in addition to the features, also consider the overall green characteristics of your upcoming purchase?   Price, features, screen size and quality continue to be the key considerations but if all those are close, consider factoring in a few green factors.

When shopping for a new green TV, there are two key points to keep in mind; lifetime energy consumption and the overall green-ness (embodied energy) when manufacturing the product. 

Once your absorb the purchase price, you still have the ongoing operating (energy) cost over the lifetime of the product – essentially this ongoing energy becomes about 4% of your carbon footprint over the next 10 years, or as long as you used it.

In the recent past, refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines were the largest energy consuming appliance in a typical household.  But over the last 10-20 years these appliances have become much more energy efficient and now new dishwashers and refrigerators use 40-50% less energy then they did 20 years ago. 

In 2009,  Energy Star reported that appliances consume 13% of a typical household’s electricity, while electronics and other energy consuming devices consumed at least 15%, many times more, of your overall energy use.  With the advent of more powerful and impressive home entertainment electronics (larger TVs, set-top boxes, home audio systems, DVRs…) the energy gains realized through more efficient appliances are being offset by higher levels of electronic energy consumption.  

Many of these large TV sets typically consume 300 to 500 watts when on.   If you’ve switched over your household to more efficient light bulbs, that’s the equivalent of having most, if not all, of your energy efficient bulbs, turned on at the same time.   Why bother being mindful of turning off unnecessary energy efficient lights when that large screen TV has been inadvertently left on and is gulping power and quietly enlarging your carbon footprint?

At the moment, it’s still a bit difficult to clearly determine the energy worthiness or carbon footprint of a TV.  Energy Star standards for TVs has been largely meaningless over the last few years and more discerning standards are coming into effect.  In May 2010, Energy Star version 4.0 went into effect and version 5.0 is slated for May 2012. A recent CNET review compares the power consumption of more than 100 high definition flat screen TVs. 

The most helpful online free resource we have found to evaluate the energy efficiency of everyday TV and appliance purchases is TopTen USA, (Green Blizzard recent article – Top Ten Energy Efficient Products). 

The good news from a power efficiency, small carbon footprint perspective is that several promising recent market entrants consume between 70-90 watts when powered on. Really remarkable.

To help you assess the green-ness or carbon footprint of the manufacturer, Greenpeace has a handy barometer from 2012 (its probably hasn’t changed much since then), a Guide to Green Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles.  This rating scheme factors in (1) the toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process and included in the inner workings of the machines; (2) their willingness to recycle their obsolete products and (3) the company’s overall impact on climate change.  Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Phillips were ranked at the top of these 18 green electronic manufacturers.  

These manufacturers have shown that they can move past the green-washing and are walking the talk. If you’re trying to buy responsibly and use your dollars to vote for greener manufacturing processes and products, check out this rating service before you begin your shopping expedition.

Technology can really green our lives and since many of these purchases are once in a decade decision, a smart decision now can impact the size of our carbon footprint for years to come. And more importantly, the degree in which we can shrink our carbon footprint, because once we buy the appliance or electronic, its best to smartly use it, maintain it, and use it for a practical long period.

Technology impacts our health too. Our friends over at the popular Positive Health Wellness website, have an interesting article about the 8 Way Technology is Improving Your Health.

Be sure to check out our green lifestyle store Green Blizzard Store. Check out these related Green Blizzard articles: Seafood Watch, Are We Eating Fish Into Extinction, Carbon Impact of Meats.


About the author

Moose Mosely

Moose, (yes, that's his everyday name - at least as far as we know), writes about all sorts of green living insights. Every minute, every decision we make in our lives has some impact to our personal carbon footprint, and Moose is there to share some insights on its impact and relevance and suggests healthier alternatives.