With as much time as Americans spend in front of their televisions these days, there's never been a better time to emphasize the need for energy-efficient TVs. While most buyer's guides out there focus on the technical specifications of things like picture quality, refresh rates and input counts, our SaveOnEnergy.com TV Buyer's Guide helps you know what to look for in an energy-efficient TV.

Assessing your family's usage

TV time is something we all enjoy. There are few things as relaxing to most people than putting your feet up after a long day and reaching for the remote control. Still, Americans as a whole watch an astonishing amount of TV per week.

According to a Nielsen study released in January 2013, the numbers for television consumption* break down like this:

Children (age 2-11): 27 hours of TV per week

Teens (age 12-17): 24 hours of TV per week

Young Adults (age 18-24): 23 hours of TV per week

Adults (age 25-34): 30 hours of TV per week

Adults (age 35-49): 35 hours of TV per week

Adults (age 50-64): 43 hours of TV per week

Seniors (age 65+): 47 hours of TV per week

When you consider that multiple people within a given household are consuming TV at different times of the day, and that 119 million of the 289 million American households with TVs have four or more sets, the energy consumption numbers really begin adding up!†

All told, a family of 5 with two adult parents, one elderly parent and two teenage kids could be collectively watching between 165 and 181 hours of television a week!

That effectively means at least one television in the home would be turned on for all but 3 hours each week.

Competing technologies

There are three primary types of televisions on the commercial market these days: LCD, plasma and LED displays. Many projection and CRT (tube) televisions are still available on the secondary market, but there are few retail options of either of these technologies available. Each TV technology has its own distinct characteristics, both in terms of picture quality and average energy usage.

Up until 2011, HDTVs – primarily LCD and plasma TVs – consumed a whole lot of electricity. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the amount of energy consumed by LCD TVs and plasma TVs when they are on fell an average of 63% and 41% respectively from 2003 to 2010.

There are a few assumptions consumers can make about the energy use of the various types of televisions on the market. In general, LED TVs use the least energy, LCDs come in second place and plasma screens round out the list.

While operational costs have fallen significantly since the early 2000s, televisions still use a noteworthy amount of energy – particularly if you regularly have your picture set to the brightest options available.

In 2011 the Federal Trade Commission began issuing EnergyGuide labels for televisions, making it easy for consumers to quickly see an estimate of how much energy each model will draw. Each label also grades the TV's energy consumption based on the average usage of devices in its class.

TIP: If you're not shopping for a new TV you may still be able to get information on the power consumption of a used TV. Go to CE.org or CNET's TV power consumption table and simply search for the specific model of television you're interested in buying!

The question of size

As you might expect, the size of your television is one of the most indicative factors in its overall energy consumption. In 2010 the average LCD TV consumed 0.11 watts per square inch of screen area while plasma screens came in at 0.13 watts per square inch.‡

The math is simple: The larger the screen's area, the more energy it requires … at least in comparison to an identical model in a smaller size. If you're interested in an easy and affordable way to save money on the energy costs of watching television, buy smaller sets! It's simple and effective.

The costs of efficiency

While TV costs continue to fall as technology becomes more accessible, there are still some pricing hurdles to get to the models that are most energy efficient.

·         LED TVs are the most efficient HD screen option but they're also the most expensive type of TV.

 ·        Plasma TVs can often be cheaper than many LCD models – at least in terms of the hit you'll take at the checkout counter – but because they use more energy you may just be putting off that cost for your electricity budget to deal with later.

Before you jump at that sale price on a new TV, do a little homework. Remember, the CEA has already done much of the work for you, all you have to do is walk around and compare the EnergyGuide labels of the various sets in your price range.

Of course, there's always the picture quality of a TV to take into account as well, but with these tips at least you'll know your TV will have manageable energy costs!

 *The statistics for television consumption used in this post include the hours noted in the Nielsen Cross-Platform Report for "timeshifted TV," or programs recorded or watched at a later time than initially aired. View the report here.

†Ownership statistics pulled from the Nielsen U.S. Consumer Usage Report 2012, found here.

‡These statistics were published by the CEA in 2011. Energy consumption in standby mode for both types of TVs also fell dramatically. Click here for the full report.

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