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Your TV and Energy Consumption

Authors:
  • Dovetail Partners, Inc.
  • European Forest Institute, FLEGT Facility and Dovetail Partners

Abstract and Figures

Although video content is increasingly viewed on a vast array of devices, a considerable amount of time is still spent watching content on a standard television. The average U.S. household has more than one TV1, used not only for viewing of programming and movies, but with video gaming systems and streaming music and music videos as well. The sheer number of televisions in North America and around the world add up to substantial energy consumption as well as emissions linked to electricity production. Peripheral devices used with the television (cable boxes, Blu-ray players, DVDs, DVRs) add to power consumption, and often when no picture or sound is being delivered. Technological improvements over the past several decades have dramatically reduced power requirements of televisions, even as screen sizes have doubled and picture resolution sharpened. Energy efficiency of peripherals has also been improved. Yet, continuing pursuit of ever larger, brighter screens appears likely to reverse recent progress in reducing energy expenditure for television viewing. In some respects, energy consumption associated with an individual TV is quite modest (for instance in comparison to a water heater). However, considered from the perspective of cumulative impact of televisions in general, consumption can be viewed as rather large. In either case, there are several things that individuals can do to reduce energy use and waste linked to television viewing.
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Dovetail Partners Consuming Responsibly Report No. 12
Your Television and
Energy Consumption
!!!
Jim L. Bowyer
Ashley McFarland Ed Pepke, Ph.D. Harry Groot
Mark Jacobs Gloria Erickson Chuck Henderson Kathryn Fernholz
Dovetail Partners, Inc.
October 20, 2019
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1!
Other Reports in the Consuming Responsibly Series
To Date
Consuming Responsibly: New Series Introduction – September 2018
Environmental Impacts of Tap vs. Bottled Water – September 2018
E-Waste and How Consumer Choices Can Help to Reduce It – October 2018
Environmental Assessment of Natural vs. Artificial Christmas Trees – November 2018
Comparison of Environmental Impacts of Flooring Alternatives – January 2019
Replacing that Old Refrigerator: A Bigger Decision than You Think – February 2019
Environmental Assessment of Conventional vs. Hybrid vs. Battery-Electric Vehicles
March 2019
Environmental Assessment of Intensive Lawn Care – April 2019
Consumer Food Waste: Environmental Impacts and Changing Course – May 2019
Reducing Home Energy Consumption – July 2019
Bathing and the Environment – August 2019
Environmental Assessment of House Cladding Products – September 2019
Your Television and Energy Consumption – October 2019
Forthcoming
An Examination of Environmental Impacts of Clothing Manufacture, Purchase, Use, and
Disposal
Environmental Comparisons of Various Modes of Travel
Further Report Titles TBD
These reports, as well as the full collection of Dovetail reports and environmental
resources, are available at www.dovetailinc.org
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2!
Your Television and Energy Consumption
Executive Summary
Although video content is increasingly viewed on a vast array of devices, a considerable
amount of time is still spent watching content on a standard television. The average
U.S. household has more than one TV1, used not only for viewing of programming and
movies, but with video gaming systems and streaming music and music videos as well.
The sheer number of televisions in North America and around the world add up to
substantial energy consumption as well as emissions linked to electricity production.
Peripheral devices used with the television (cable boxes, Blu-ray players, DVDs, DVRs)
add to power consumption, and often when no picture or sound is being delivered.
Technological improvements over the past several decades have dramatically reduced
power requirements of televisions, even as screen sizes have doubled and picture
resolution sharpened. Energy efficiency of peripherals has also been improved. Yet,
continuing pursuit of ever larger, brighter screens appears likely to reverse recent
progress in reducing energy expenditure for television viewing.
In some respects, energy consumption associated with an individual TV is quite modest
(for instance in comparison to a water heater). However, considered from the
perspective of cumulative impact of televisions in general, consumption can be viewed
as rather large. In either case, there are several things that individuals can do to reduce
energy use and waste linked to television viewing.
An American Pastime
While baseball is characterized as our national pastime, watching television (a small
part of which involves watching baseball) actually consumes far more of an average
American’s time. A 2018 Nielsen study found that American adults spend an average of
4 ¾ hours per day watching either live or recorded and/or streaming television.2
In 2018, 119.9 million American homes (94% of homes) had one or more televisions.3
Their operation, including set-top boxes4, home theater systems, DVD players, and
video game consoles adds up to substantial energy consumption 4% of residential
electricity use and about 7% when energy use by peripheral devices is also considered.5
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1 The terms “Television” and “TV” as used in this report specifically do not refer to computer monitors or
video screens that are part of other devices.
2 Perez (2018)
3 Lynch (2018)
4!!The term set-top box refers to a cable box or other device that generally contains a TV-tuner input and
displays output to a television set. They are used in cable television, satellite television, and over-the-
air television systems, as well as other uses.!
5 EIA (2018, 2019)
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3!
There is a very good news story with respect to TV power consumption: even as picture
resolution has increased, energy consumption per screen area has declined sharply in
recent years. Comparing units with the same screen size shows that liquid-crystal
display (LCD) TVs manufactured in 2015 use far less power than those produced one to
two decades earlier.
The flip side of the good news story is that gains in TV energy efficiency have been
largely offset by an ongoing trend toward ever-larger TV screens. Screen sizes are far
larger than only two decades ago, with the average size rising an inch or more each
year. Compared to 1997, screens were more than twice as large on average (47 inches)
in 2017 (Figure 1). Several manufacturers now offer 100-inch models.
Figure 1
Average Screen Size of New Televisions Sold in the U.S. by Year, 1997-2017
Source: Statista (2019)
How much energy television consumes within a given household depends on a number
of factors, all which can be controlled by members of the household. Such factors
include:
! How many TVs are in the home and how often they are in use.
! Age of the TV.
! TV screen size.
! TV screen brightness.
! Number and type of peripherals.
! Management of devices to prevent vampire power losses.6
This report examines each of these issues and provides recommendations regarding
how to minimize energy consumption linked to owning and operating televisions.
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6 Vampire power loss refers to electricity consumption that occurs when a device is in standby or off but
remote-ready.
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It All Adds Up
Despite gains in energy efficiency, televisions consume more energy than all other
consumer electronics,7 accounting for half of electronics power use and almost double
that of home computing. Total energy consumption is significantly higher when energy
use of peripheral devices is included. Overall, TV viewing in the U.S. in 2018 added up
to about 62 billion kWh (62 TWh), equivalent to total energy generation from over 11
typical 500 megawatt power plants and about 43.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide
equivalent (CO2e) emissions.
While the collective energy consumption numbers annually are impressive, energy
consumed by any one of the devices individually is small as compared to energy
consumption in home heating, a water heater, or the refrigerator. Because of this,
some trivialize pursuit of TV related energy conservation, pointing out that potential
monetary savings are minimal.8 A very recent article, for instance, states that “Most
modern TVs consume fewer than 250 watts, which adds up to just a few dollars a
month per TV for even the most dedicated couch potatoes.”9 In point of fact, at current
electricity rates, the cost of running such a TV an average of 5 hours a day would yield
a monthly bill ranging between about $4.50 (Miami) to $9.00 (San Francisco), to most
Americans, an inconsequential amount. The cost to a dedicated “couch potato” would
undoubtedly be more.
Considering this same 250W television from another perspective, viewing this single
device (roughly equivalent to a new 70-inch LED model) for 5 hours a day over a period
of one year consumes more electricity than total annual per capita electricity
consumption in more than twenty-five of the lowest income countries.10 Whether the
quantity of energy consumed is viewed as a little or a lot, there is no downside in
reducing energy use and waste and associated emissions.
Spectacular Gains in Television Energy Efficiency
From CRT to Flat Screen
The record of energy efficiency improvement in televisions is impressive. Over the
period 2003-2005 the average on-mode power draw of televisions decreased 76% per
square inch of screen area. In addition, standby power consumption was reduced by
63%.11 The greatest efficiency gains have come through replacement of old, bulky
cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions with new flat screen models (Figures 2, 3). Whether
further gains in efficiency can come close to the past record of achievement remains to
be seen.
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7 Urban and Roth (2017)!
8 Katzmaier (2013)
9 Trollinger (2019)
10 Schlossberg (2016), World Bank (2014)
11 Howard et al. (2012), Urban and Roth (2017)
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Partially responsible for spectacular improvements is the
EPA’s voluntary market-driven ENERGY STAR program,
which with considerable input from manufacturers,
established energy efficiency standards, verification
protocols, and on-product labels. The standards provided
industry with benchmarks for energy efficiency, while on-
product labels established standardized energy performance
measures which allowed consumers to readily identify
energy efficient products.
Figure 3
Power Comparison between CRT, LCD, Plasma, and LED Televisions (In watts)
Source: Energy Use Calculator (2019)
Note in Figure 3 that an LCD TV (yellow) with a screen size of 50 inches consumes 50%
more energy when in operation than a comparable LED TV (green). A 50-inch plasma
TV (gray) in contrast consumes twice as much energy as a comparable LCD TV and
three times the energy of an LED model. Older CRT models (red) require three to four
times more energy to operate newer model TVs of the same size, and in most cases
significantly more than newer models with larger-screens. In all cases energy
consumption rises sharply as the screen size increases.
Competing Technologies
The shift away from CRT was accompanied by development of a number of new
technologies: liquid-crystal display (LCD), Plasma, light emitting diode (LED), and most
recently, organic light emitting diode (OLED).
CRT Television
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LCD (liquid-crystal display) televisions, the most prevalent type of TV sold today, use
the same technology as employed for many years in display screens of calculators,
digital watches, and cellphones. An LCD screen is lighted from the back by fluorescent
lamps that shine through polarized glass and a matrix of tiny picture elements called
pixels, each of which contain green, red, and blue sub-elements that are switched on or
off as a picture is transmitted. LCD televisions are far thinner and lighter than CRT TVs.
Plasma televisions, introduced at about the same time as LCD TVs, utilize thousands of
cells between layers of glass which are lit from the back to create a picture. In this
case, however, each of the cells contain very hot gas – called plasma and when an
electrical charge passes through a reaction occurs and red, green or blue light is
emitted depending on the current. Plasma sets have a number of advantages over LCD
TVs (superior black levels, better viewing angles, and high refresh rates), but are
considerably less energy efficient and prone to problems, factors that resulted in their
eventual phase out.
LED TVs are similar to LCD in that light sources activate pixels. But whereas LCDs use
fluorescent lights, LEDs use light emitting diodes (semiconductors) which emit light as
current passes through them. This technology allows placement of the light source
either behind or at the edges of the screen. This, in turn, allows thinner screens than is
possible with LCDs. LED TVs also provide better picture quality than can be obtained
with LCDs.12
The latest, and emerging, technology is OLED. These are similar to LED TVs, but do not
make use of a backlight. OLED TVs make use of organic (carbon-based) plastics rather
than semiconductors, allowing each pixel to be lighted individually. This technology
allows extremely thin screens (as little as 1-2 mm) and consequently a host of new
possibilities. For instance, screens can be curved or even rolled up. High cost is
currently limiting adoption, though expectations are that costs will fall in the future.
It depends upon the type of TV and the model, but in general, LED models use less
energy than LCDs, and both consume far less than plasma models (Figure 3). OLED TVs
consume more energy per unit of screen area than LCD and LED TVs.
The Effect of Screen Brightness
When a television is on, the power draw typically depends strongly on screen area and
screen brightness settings. Settings can often be adjusted to various preset modes
home, movie, game, vivid, eco, automatic brightness control or users can adjust
brightness independently of these modes.
Automatic Brightness Control (ABC), which adjusts screen brightness in response to
indoor lighting conditions, significantly reduces power consumption. Testing of TV
models equipped with ABC, and in which ABC is enabled by default, has found power
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12 How Stuff Works (2018), Bouckley (2019) Harris and Fenlon (2011), Woodford (2018)
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draw to be about 25% lower than in those without. However, even models equipped
with ABC that are delivered with this feature enabled by default also allow viewers to
manually override this feature, sometimes without even knowing that they have done
so (for instance by adjusting brightness or contrast). Switching from pre-set brightness
levels to maximum brightness can, in some instances, double power consumption. 13
Given the effect of screen brightness on energy consumption, it is important to maintain
the ABC mode on units equipped with this feature, and to maintain brightness levels at
65 to 70% of maximum where brightness settings are controlled by the viewer.
As of 2015, the ABC feature was most common with larger TVs, with about half of
models above 42 inches so equipped. All ENERGY STAR models have this feature. In
any event, buyers should make sure that any new TV is equipped with ABC.
In 2018, Sony exhibited a prototype TV, advertised as having a screen brightness 10-15
times greater than anything on the market to date. Clarification indicated that
brightness would be introduced to only strategic portions of the picture in order to
increase clarity. What this means for energy consumption in the future is not clear at
this point, although the potential exists for increases in power requirements as brighter
screens hit the market.14
Peripheral Devices and Energy Consumption
All those neat gadgets that interact with your TV, from digital video disc players (DVDs)
and digital video recorders (DVRs) to the cable box and game console consume energy
whether in use or in a standby mode. Keeping devices in standby, rather than turned
off, still consumes power, whether it be to allow reception of a signal from a remote
control, perform recording functions, and/or maintain an internet connection.
In some cases, electricity consumption while in standby is almost the same as when the
device is in operation. For instance, a cable box with DVR consumes 99.5% as much
energy when not recording as it does when recording is in progress, and 97% of “on-
recording” energy when off, but remote ready. If the connection is via a satellite box,
the percentages are 90% and 89%. A cable box without a DVR does a bit better if left
on, but still consumes 83% as much energy when the TV set is off as when the TV is
on; if turned off, but remote ready, this setup consumes 60% as much energy as when
the TV is on (Table 1). As indicated earlier, these kinds of power loss, or waste, are
commonly referred to as vampire power losses.
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13 Urban and Roth (2017)
14 Morrison (2018)
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Table 1
Average Energy Consumption (Watts) by TV Peripheral Devices
in Various Modes of Operation
Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2019).
Just as operating a large TV for a few hours a day results in greater energy
consumption than total annual energy use by residents of a number of countries,
having a digitally connected DVR that is remote ready 24/7 has a near equivalent effect.
Leaving peripherals in a stand-by mode is convenient. But it is important to keep in
mind that doing so impacts both the wallet and the environment.
As with TVs, there is a good news story behind peripherals energy consumption
numbers. In this case, the EPA partnered with the National Consumer Technology
Association to develop a voluntary agreement for ongoing improvement of set-top box
energy efficiency. This agreement, signed by industry representatives in 2012,
established energy efficiency goals and contained provisions protecting rapid innovation
and timely introduction of new features. Over the succeeding five years, energy
consumption of new DVRs was reduced by 46% in comparison to existing stock in
Mode of Operation
Device
Not recording,
TV on
Not recording,
TV off
Off by remote
--
Set-top box,
digital cable with
DVR
44.4
44.6
43.5
--
Set-top box,
satellite with
DVR
31.4
28.4
27.8
--
On, TV on
On, TV off
Off by remote
Off by switch
Set top box,
digital cable
29.6
24.7
17.8
17.5
Set-top box,
satellite
16.2
16.0
15.7
15.5
On, recording
On, not
recording
Off
--
Set-top box,
DVR
29.3
37.6
36.7
--
On, playing
On, not playing
Off
--
DVD Player
9.9
7.5
1.6
--
DVD/VCR
15.3
13.5
5.0
--
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2012, and non-DVR equipment energy consumption had been reduced by 24%.15
Further efficiency improvements are expected from ongoing industry efforts.
Reducing TV and Peripherals Energy Consumption
Steps that can be taken to reduce energy consumption of TVs and peripherals include
the following:16
! Unplug devices not in use or used rarely, such as a DVR in a guest bedroom.
! Use power strips with an on-off switch for TV and peripherals, and turn off when
not in use. (These can also have electricity surge protectors.)
! Disable quick start settings for TVs and inactivate the instant-on mode for game
consoles.
! Turn off TV when not viewing.
! If using TV for listening to radio or music, set to black screen mode.
! Determine type and wattage of your TV and peripherals (information generally
available on back of unit).
! Replace CRT and plasma units with new LED models.
! If buying new, always purchase ENERGY STAR model.
! Select a screen size no larger than needed for quality viewing.
! Make sure model selected has an ambient light sensor (ABC) and ensure this
feature is enabled.
! Recycle all electronics (do not put in trash). Most electronics retailers will accept
old equipment for recycling.
Summary
Improvements over the past several decades have dramatically improved the energy
efficiency of televisions, reducing power requirements per unit of screen area by 75
percent or more. Energy efficiency of peripheral devices has also been improved.
However, a rapid trend toward larger screen sizes has the potential to reverse recent
progress in reducing the energy costs and associated environmental impacts from
television viewing.
Smart consumption choices are important in moderating TV related energy demand. So
too are actions on the part of device owners to reduce power consumption of presently
owned equipment. Fortunately, there are several things that individuals can do to
reduce energy use and waste linked to television viewing.
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15 D+R International (2018)
16 NH Saves (2012), Gerroir (2016), HomeSelfie.com (2018)
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11!
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Copyright © Dovetail Partners, Inc. All rights reserved.
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From HD to 4K via Plasma and LED: 10 key innovations in modern TV tech
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