May 26, 2013

Considering Energy Use When Shopping for a TV

While browsing at Costco I notice that most of the TVs now seem to show their energy usage guide.   The numbers don't seem very high and are usually around $25 a year ballpark.   It seems like a pretty small figure compared to spending $500-$1000 on a TV.    However the amount of electricity used by TVs should not be ignored when comparing models.   If you add up the electricity cost over a 5 year lifespan the differences between models can be significant. 

To illustrate the point I grabbed the retail prices and electricity costs for a few TV models off the BestBuy website.   I then figured the NPV (Net Present Value) of purchasing the TV at the advertised price and the energy consumption over a 5 year period.   I used an arbitrary 4% discount rate for NPV.

Here is a selection of 55" TVs :

Brand Tech Retail Energy NPV
Insignia LCD $600 $47 ($786)
Haier LED $649 $24 ($731)
TCL LED $700 $15.5 ($742)
Vizio LED $800 $16 ($840)

The LCD based Insignia model is the cheapest to buy at just $600.   However if you figure in 5 years worth of electricity costs then the LED based Haier model is cheaper in the long run.   Another detail to notice is that between 3 different m manufacturers we see a fairly significant spread of energy costs among the LED models.   The costs ranged from $15.5 to $24 per year for the same size and technology.   You can see a pretty large difference in energy use between brands.  

And here are some 50" TVs:

Brand Tech Retail Energy NPV
Panasonic Plasma $500 $26 ($597)
TCL LED $530 $10 ($554)
Insignia LCD $550 $39.00 ($702)

In this case again an LED model has the lowest NPV but not the lowest Retail price.    The plasma from Panasonic is cheaper to buy but has higher electric use.

In both examples I looked at buying the cheapest TV would result in higher overall costs once you figure in the cost of electricity.

Keep in mind these are just examples to illustrate the point.   You may do better overall with a bargain sale price on a Plasma model.   But the point is to look at both the initial purchase price cost of buying the  TV as well as considering the long term energy usage costs.

It should be pointed out that the energy guide figures are based on 11¢ kWh electricity rates and 5 hours of daily usage.   Your electricity cost and viewing habits are likely to vary so you should probably adjust the figures to match.

Bottom Line:   Don't ignore the energy consumption for large screen TVs.   Paying a little more for a more energy efficient model can save you in the long run.


  1. Hmmm, now to figure out how long it would take for it to pay off to replace our existing, cathode-ray-tube TV with an LED model. I'll have to figure the energy usage of my existing TV myself.

    1. I looked up the manual for my CRT TV and found that it consumes 380 watts when operating and 1 watt on standby (vampire power anyone?). Meanwhile after a little digging I found that the TC-P50X60 which I believe is the Panasonic Plasma model you used, uses 129 watts operating and 0.3 watts on standby. I only needed to look up the latter to make sure I was doing the calculation the same.

      Based on that, it costs $77 per year to operate my CRT TV, which was incidentally manufactured in 2005 and has an Energy Star certification sticker. It does seem that flat panel TV's are dropping faster than $51 per year, but who knows.

      Of course there's also the factor that it's easier to get rid of a working TV - someone will take it for free on craigslist. Whereas, you have to pay to throw away a broken TV (in my area).

      As with your post, this is not considering picture quality or other such factors.

  2. SteveD,

    Hey, you won that contest for free macaroons. Please send me an email to collect your prize.



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