Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When High-Def Pigs Fly and a Reality Check for Captain Kirk

Usually seen flying off the shelves for football season, the high definition or HDTVs are rapidly replacing the cathode-ray tube TV that we all grew up with and loved.

Within the past few years, television technology transformed our comic book pixilated view of the world into something as sharp and clear as peering at galaxies from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Those dazzling celestial bodies appear like you could reach out to touch them, but there’s a catch.

As an agent for energy efficiency, I bring you bad news. You’re really going to pay for that crystal-clear view, and it’s going to be through your electric bill.

The two high definition technologies, LCD and plasma TVs, are energy hogs with plasma in particular pushing out other energy piggies from the power trough. If you bring a plasma TV into your home, it will gobble up most or all your energy savings for the year that you gained by using compact fluorescent light bulbs. It is also equivalent to running a second refrigerator. "Ouch," or should I say, “Oink,"

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, LCDs TVs use 75 percent more power - and plasma TVs a whopping three times more - than the traditional cathode-ray tube sets. The amount of power used varies depending on screen size and picture settings, how much you pay per kilowatt per hour, and time spent watching TV. A plasma set could add from $40 to $100 or more a year to the average household electric bill, while a LCD set’s yearly energy premium could be $15 to $25.

Maybe that extra power cost is not a big deal for some of you at the moment, but remember, that Pennsylvania's utilities rate caps are coming off soon, and every little bit you can save now on electrical usage is going to help your future household bottom line.

With more and more high definition programming coming into our homes, energy consumption is probably the last reason for someone’s choice of purchasing a new TV. Nevertheless, how do you get the best deal that has picture quality, price, and energy savings?

Look for the Energy Star label to guide your purchase. In November 2008, additional specifications were created for HDTVs to meet. A TV has to meet stringent requirements on energy consumption, but within its own category to receive the label. In other words, it has to be an apple to apple comparison. A plasma or a LCD TV still could have an energy star label, but keep in mind, both respectively consume more energy than a cathode-ray tube TV. The Energy Star website,
http://www.energystar.gov/
, indentifies current make and models that have their label.

Try
http://www.practical-home-theater-guide.com/
to help you navigate the through the world of LCD and plasma TVs. The site compares the different technologies, picture quality, and advantages and disadvantages of them.

An online affiliate of CBS, CNET, offers a great deal of information on their television review site at http://reviews.cnet.com/television/?tag=hdr;snav.
It reviews 150 TV models’ energy consumption and also sheds light on microdisplay rear projection models and the ancillary devices such as DVR, gaming devices, etc. There is a page on how to reduce TV energy usage.

Later this year, the new energy ratings become compulsory. Companies are pushing hard to get their models in line for the Energy Star label, and energy savings could head toward fifty percent based on previous models. If you are going to buy one, then do your homework.
Energy efficiency is more than governmental programs and regulations. It’s about personal habits and attitudes.

Without getting too preachy, here’s a little tip to reduce your TV energy usage. WATCH LESS TV.

If it’s a reality show you want, then try going out on a clear summer night and do a little stargazing. You might see a streaking meteor silently lacerate the heavens or an orbiting satellite mock gravity while peeking back at you. You could ponder. You could ponder anything - life, death, God, science, why a puppy’s breath smells like scorched oatmeal - anything. In turn, you will reduce your utility bill, and very possibly energize yourself.


“Earth is even more beautiful than it is from the bridge, Spock.” Kirk said into his communicator while looking upward. “The smells... The sounds… And this night sky is incredible. You should see the Milky Way from here.”

“Of course, Captain. Would you like to return back to the ship?”

“I hate to but I suppose so.”

“Captain,” a Celtic-accented voice blurted from Kirk’s communicator. “I made some adjustments to the transporter. I can bring you back on half power.”

“Half power? Can we do that all the time?”

“I think so, Captain.”

“Good. Now, Scotty, beam me up.”