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Televisions remain the electricity glutton of the home

•   Electricity use of TVs represents half of all electronics
•   Get efficient models - don't compromise on features
•   Heating remains by far the biggest home energy use

Our thirst for tablets, laptops and other games consoles seems unquenchable – but you may be surprised to learn that TVs, including set-top boxes and DVD/Blu-ray players, still remain the biggest electricity consumer of our domestic electronic appliances and devices

They account for 50 per cent of electronics energy use – dwarfing the 27 per cent used by our home computing systems. 

Looking at electricity use more broadly across the home, electronics are at the top of the table, representing 39 per cent of consumption. Second are dishwashers, washers and dryers (21 per cent), with fridges and freezers at 18 per cent. 

TVs top the table

Aled Stephens from Energy Saving TrustIt's the TV figures that Energy Saving Trust Insight Analyst Aled Stephens (pictured) wants to focus on.

He said: “In the Data and Insight team at EST, we look at all sorts of data to help our clients. While looking through the latest figures on electricity usage in the UK, TVs being at the top really stood out. It’s a surprise that overall we use more energy in the UK to power TVs than we do to power all of our computer equipment combined.”

The average new 40'' TV costs around £29 to run each year. An energy efficient A+ rated 40'' TV typically costs £11 to run each year. That’s £122 over the lifetime of the product – a saving worthy of consideration. 

A matter of compromise?

But does saving some cash and increasing your energy efficiency mean cutting back on high-tech, desirable features? Aled rebuts this idea. 

He said: “People might be thinking that making an energy efficient choice when buying a TV means compromising on other features and screen size, but this just isn't the case. You can get 3D, full HD TVs that still have a high energy efficiency rating. The ratings are shown in-store and on the packaging, D to A+++. Look to the top end of the alphabet.”

However, lots of modern TVs, particularly those with added features, come with eco-start up functions or similar – it’s important to make sure these have been set up, and that you don’t switch them off, otherwise your TV could use much more energy than it states on the energy label.

Size matters – but perhaps not that much

Figures from communication industry regulator Ofcom and Amazon sales data shows that television sizes have been increasing in recent years. A cause for concern? Not necessarily.

Although it takes more energy to power a larger television, a large energy efficient television can use less energy, and cost less to run, than a smaller less efficient one. For the same energy rating however, a smaller TV will use less energy. For example, a 32” A++ TV will use much less energy than an equivalent 60” A++ TV. But there are other factors that impact on TV electricity use. 


Standby for change

Electricity consumption while a TV is on standby has been improved in recent years thanks to Ecodesign regulations and labelling. A new TV uses about 70 per cent less energy in standby mode than one bought before 2007.

There are, however, concerns that putting the television in a ‘quick start mode’ can increase standby consumption. 

Computing consumption cuts

Elsewhere in electronics, Aled highlights progress in computing – both in terms of technology and buying choices. 

He said: “Computers have improved a lot. People are increasingly using tablets and laptops, which use a lot less electricity than desktop computers.”

Home heating still the big energy issue

It's important to remember that no matter how much electricity is being consumed in the home, the biggest energy demand by far comes from heating and hot water.

Aled added: “Over 80 per cent of energy used in the home is for space and water heating – so if you want to make big energy savings, looking at your heating system and your home's energy efficiency is definitely the place to start.

“When that's done, look at that electricity consumption. Then, it's the TV that's the average biggest user. Maybe you shouldn't go out immediately to change your TV, but having energy efficiency at the top of your mind when it comes to a change is definitely a wise idea.”

Discover more blogs about products and technology. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or tweet @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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Interesting article.

I think it would be really helpful if the EST started publishing league tables for domestic goods efficiency. This would let us see the best and worst performers in lots of different areas such as consumer electronics and white goods.

I'm not sure how effective saying to people you can save £20 a year by purchasing as A+++ TV compared to a less efficient model is. What do most people think a TV costs per year to run, if it's more than the worst performing TV I would imagine motivating people to change would be more difficult.

I fully back little efficiencies add up to a big saving (including behavioural changes) and I hope domestic goods carry on becoming more efficient in the future.

Hello Simon,

Thanks for getting in touch. If you haven't already, we recommend visiting the Topten UK site, which provides an independent guide to the most energy efficient products and appliances. We recently wrote a couple of blogs focusing on the Topten initiative, which you may find interesting. Rather than focusing on the worst performers, it champions the best of the best.

We hope this is useful.

EST Team

Thanks for these numbers, very useful and quite surprising.
Watching it appears that standby power on set-top boxes and TVs is not a technical necessity. How would you go about changing standards to make TV companies reduce their standby power to zero?

Hello Brad,

Thanks for getting in touch. We're pleased you found the numbers very useful.

The TV ecodesign regulations, which set the minimum standards for efficiency, are currently in review.  The horizontal standby regulation 1275/2008, as they mention in the video requires a TV to consume lower than 0.5W in standby – this regulation came out of the IEA’s  ‘One Watt initiative’ is already responsible for significant energy savings worldwide.

We found in the ComplianTV project that many of the ones we tested used comfortably below this, often under 0.3W.  But there is always something more that can be done, as technology improves – a number of organisations and projects are putting forward a position for more ambition under this review, mostly on the in-use performance – for example see the position of the Coolproducts campaign and CLASP on how fit for purpose the current regulations are. 

Due to various factors the Ecodesign process has stalled significantly over the past year – the European Commission recently responded to a call to ensure this process of continually improving products energy performance was restarted.  One main consideration is obviously whether the current regulations reflect the market and recent technological improvements -   A new Ecodesign work plan has now been released, addressing products at the review stage, such as TVs and identifying new products to have standards set.  A review of the Standby regulation 1275/2008 is currently in progress, due to be finished in 2017.

We hope this helps.

EST Team

Thanks a lot, Amanda, that was super helpful.