If home media electronics are on your Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping list, be aware that their features and settings could bump up your monthly energy bills.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Americans now use about 81 billion kilowatt-hours of energy to operate their televisions and related electronics. That’s about 6 percent of a typical home’s energy use – or the fifth largest home energy expense.
Even though new electronics are generally about three times more energy efficient than they were a decade ago, we’re using more energy than ever before for a few reasons.
Most households now use multiple devices – several TVs, a home theater system, game console, cable receiver, digital media player and a set-top box – instead of just a TV and VCR or DVD player. More devices mean more energy use.
Another reason is that newer devices have advanced processors that use more energy to provide stunning resolution, realistic graphics and features such voice command, video streaming and web browsing. They use more standby power – or phantom energy – to stay in “quick start mode.”
Here are some things to consider before buying and using home media electronics to avoid wasting energy.
Game consoles are notorious for wasting energy because of their excessive phantom energy draw when they’re not in use. This is likely why no game console has yet earned an ENERGY STAR® label.
“The gaming industry will continue to manufacture products that deliver high-end performance and graphics, but those features also consume more energy,” said Raymundo Martinez, Senior Program Manager for Innovations and Emerging Technology at Tucson Electric Power.
The overall energy use of game consoles has actually increased up to three times compared to earlier consoles because of new features like voice command that require the console and controllers to always be on and “listening.”
To reduce your game console’s energy use, ENERGY STAR offers these tips:
- Plug your game console directly into the HDMI port on your TV rather than running it through your set-top cable box.
- Set your power mode setting to “energy-saving” rather than “instant-on.”
- Turn off controllers when not in use and enable the automatic power-down or
rest mode after a period of inactivity.
- Download software updates that may have power-saving options.
- Use an ENERGY STAR laptop or tablet to stream content rather than your game console, which uses 10 times more energy than those devices.
Thankfully, televisions have become far more energy-efficient as technology has evolved, and inefficient models like plasma screens are becoming obsolete.
Most of the TVs in stores today are energy-efficient liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which have earned the ENERGY STAR label and display the bright yellow Energy Guide sticker showing the average annual cost of operation. Most 200-watt LCD TVs used three hours a day cost about $28 a year to operate.
Generally, the larger the screen size and higher the resolution, the greater the energy use, but only by a few dollars. Some features, such as Ultra High Definition, make screens brighter and use more energy. Larger TVs also create more heat. This could increase your cooling costs in the summer.
To reduce your TV’s energy use, turn it off when it’s not being watched. If you don’t use the voice command, disable this feature in your settings. Plugging your TV and all of your home media devices into one smart power strip allows you to turn off everything at once to reduce phantom energy draw. Finally, slightly dim the screen brightness to lower energy use.
Cable Boxes and DVRs
If you pay for TV service and your set-top box (STB) is more than five years old, this older hardware may be wasting energy. It might be worth asking your service provider about exchanging it for an updated box.
“These older model STBs have older hardware that may not be as efficient as newer technologies,” Martinez said. “Energy efficiency for electronics depends on the platform, software and hardware. Manufacturers are working toward reducing their product’s need for energy while still providing the same entertainment value.”
DVD and Blu-Ray Players
One type of device that you don’t need to worry about for high energy use is your DVD or Blue-Ray player. They draw such little energy that it costs a penny or less to watch a movie with them. Still, check the owner’s manual and settings to make sure you’re optimizing the energy-saving functions and that it’s plugged into a smart power strip.
Although each piece in your home media system uses a minimal amount of energy, together they can add up to higher energy costs. The best thing to do to keep your home entertainment costs down might be to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and replace older, inefficient devices.