Why Recent Progress in Television Efficiency Should Make You Feel Better About Binge Watching Your Favorite Shows

Posted on October 10, 2013 by
Anthony Fryer

Those of us who have been hopelessly glued to AMC’s Breaking Bad for the past five seasons, or have been binge watching the latest Netflix offering late into the night, will be happy to learn that the new televisions bringing us these shows are becoming more and more energy efficient. On October 2, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gave us a new and better tool to track this energy use with a test method that provides a single, consistent, and accurate way to measure TV energy consumption.

TVs are very much an energy efficiency success story. As shown in the graph below, between 2006 and 2012 the average energy consumption of televisions dropped by 57%, while at the same time average screen size increased by 30% and average price decreased by almost two-thirds.

TV Trends Since 2006

Graph of TV efficiency, cost, size

Source: Analysis by Natural Resources Defense Council/Energy Solutions

This progress can largely be attributed to a robust ENERGY STAR® program for televisions, strong state standards in California (and now Connecticut and Oregon), utility incentive programs, and of course the innovation of manufacturers.

Despite the impressive progress of TV efficiency, more can be done. According to DOE, TVs currently consume approximately 65 billion kWh of energy each year, representing approximately 4-5% of electricity used by U.S. households. The new test procedure provides ENERGY STAR, states, manufacturers, and consumers with a vital tool in continuing to increase TV energy efficiency by providing a single, consistent way of measuring actual energy consumption. Since any claim about TV efficiency or energy use in the future must be based on this single method of measurement, consumers will have confidence that they can make valid comparisons. 

While the test procedure is largely based on existing industry-developed methods, DOE has taken these methods a step further in order to ensure accuracy and fairness, close testing loopholes, and prevent gaming that could result in misleading claims. For example, the test method includes protections to prevent manufacturers from testing TVs in a low energy mode that might not be representative of how consumers typically use the product.

Media critics are currently hailing this to be a golden age of television, with HBO, Showtime, Netflix, AMC, and others putting out hit series after hit series. Given the great strides recently made, this could also be a golden age of TV efficiency. And, as industry continues to innovate and lower TV energy use in the coming years, DOE has provided a fair, consistent, and accurate test method to help facilitate further progress.