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One in four Australians buy a new television each year and they're now the fourth largest electricity user in our homes.

While it may be tempting to go for the cheapest or the biggest, over the course of its lifetime an inefficient TV can really add to your power bills and energy use, and may not even give you the best viewing experience along the way.

Woman and a group of girls watching television

© Jupiterimages/Getty Images

The television is the centrepiece of most home entertainment activity, so it's well worth the time to do a little research online before you navigate your way through the in-store sales experience. This way you will not only save on petrol but you'll improve your ability to negotiate for the best TV to suit your needs and budget.

  • Make a list of things that are most important to you. For example, screen size, picture, sound quality, features, ease of use (including the remote control), brand, and range of use (like internet connection). Ensure you add technology type and energy efficiency to the list.
  • The Energy Rating Label will help you choose the most energy-efficient model that meets your needs. You can compare the energy efficiency of the various brands and models of equivalent sized televisions on the Energy Rating website.
  • As technology prices come down, try to resist the temptation to upsize. Bigger screens don't necessarily mean better quality viewing.
  • Consider opting for a smaller screen size—it will use less power. If you take room size and seating plan into account, you may find you don't need a huge screen. The bigger the screen, the further away you'll need to sit. As a rule of thumb, multiply the diagonal measurement of the screen by 2.5 to estimate the ideal viewing distance. If you've got a 117cm TV multiply this by 2.5 and the best distance to sit from your TV is about 3 metres.
  • When you're in the store, ask the sales person about energy efficiency. You can also calculate the annual running costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Understanding TV power consumption

There are four main factors that influence how much power your television uses:

  1. Technology type (the light source used to produce the picture)
    • LCD (liquid crystal display) is back-lit using a single fluorescent (cold cathode fluorescent lighting—CCFL). Newer LCDs use LED (light-emitting diodes), making them more efficient.
    • Plasma is lit by charging each sub-pixel individually, meaning plasma technology generally uses more power than LCD.
    • OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is the most energy efficient technology, but it's newer and not as widely used.
  2. Screen size—the bigger the screen, the more power consumed.
  3. Picture brightness—the more light output, the greater your power consumption.
  4. Use—modern TVs are designed to continually be in 'standby' mode, ready to be operated by remote control. Unless switched off at the wall, they're consuming power continuously even when you're not watching.

Use your TV efficiently

A big screen television used 6 hours a day can use more energy than a family fridge—and generate around half a tonne of greenhouse gases a year.

You can make a few simple adjustments to reduce how much energy your television uses:

  • Turn off the TV and any connected devices like DVD players when you're not using them. Standby power is a significant contributor to household energy waste. If you're inclined to leave the TV on for company, try swapping it for something less energy-intensive, like listening to the radio or a CD, or use the 'picture off' mode.
  • Use the television's built-in speakers instead of the energy-intensive home theatre speakers when you don't need the full home cinema experience.
  • If you have more than one TV, use the smaller one for everyday shows like the news (the news reader doesn't look any better on the big screen).
  • Turn off the 'quick start' option that keeps the TV warmed up and ready to turn on a few seconds faster. This can consume a considerable amount of power during standby. Also turn off 'movie mode' or similar picture mode settings. It doesn't usually make much difference using these high resolution settings which use more power.
  • Think about the physical location of the TV. Keep it out of direct sunlight or other locations that may require the use of higher resolution settings.
  • If your LCD has an option to turn down the backlight (making the TV less bright) you'll not only save power, but may improve image quality as well. You can also reduce light output and improve picture quality with picture settings like 'contrast' and 'brightness'. Running your television on higher power settings can also reduce the life of your TV.
  • Check that the 'power-saver' mode is turned on. Some new televisions also have a 'presence sensor' that turns off the picture and then eventually the television itself when you're not in the room. Light and ambient sensors can automatically adjust picture brightness and energy saving switches.
  • Opt for a good universal remote control or powerboard that can power down the whole system with one click; saving you time, energy and money.

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