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TVs are electricity guzzlers – but you need to see the bigger picture

TV on stand in the corner of the room

On-demand television has changed the way we watch our favourite programmes. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the amount of electricity we use to power TVs, including set-top boxes and DVD/Blu-ray players, is falling.

Only a few years ago, they accounted for 50% of the electricity consumption of our domestic consumer electronics – now the figure is around 33%. That’s still significantly more than the 21% that can be accounted for from our home computing systems, which means considering energy efficiency when purchasing a new TV is still something well worth doing.

No need to compromise

The average new 40'' TV costs around £28 to run each year. An energy efficient A+ rated 40'' TV typically costs £8 to run each year. That’s £138 over the lifetime of the product – a very healthy saving.

There’s no need to miss out on features, either. 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+++. Eco-start up functions are a common feature of modern TVs, too – but 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.

Television sizes have been increasing in recent years, but this is not necessarily a cause for too much concern. 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.

Putting TV electricity use in perspective

Consumer electronics: Top 5 electricity guzzlers in the home

 

 

Overall top 5 domestic electricity users, by appliance/device type

It’s important to note that while TVs do represent half of consumer electronics electricity use, consumer electronics only represent 4% of what’s used in a home. The electricity required to power TVs, top boxes, games consoles and DVD players is dwarfed by white goods: fridges and freezers in particular. These draw heavily on the grid, and by their very nature need to be on all the time. It’s no wonder they’re far ahead of the rest when it comes to home electricity use.

 

 

Applied energy-saving

So, what to do with this information? Well, if you’re looking to contribute to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security and lower your bills at the same time, there are a number of actions you can take. You can:

  • don’t overload your fridge and freezer as this reduces the energy they use
  • wash at 30°C to use around 57% less electricity than at higher temperatures
  • replace all your home’s halogen downlighters with LEDs to save around £30 a year.

There are options to make your connected world that little bit more conscious too.

You can:

  • turn off Wi-Fi at night to save £3 a year
  • switch off smart home appliances at the wall, if possible
  • don’t constantly charge phones and other devices up to 100% - most have a longer lifespan if their batteries are kept around half charged
  • when you upgrade gadgets, consider their overall sustainability and make sure they’re properly recycled, so valuable materials can go back into creating the technologies of tomorrow rather than needing to be dug out of the ground.  

Keeping the heat on main area of energy use

Of course, home energy use is not simply about electricity, or just appliances and gadgets either. The majority of home energy use – around 80% in fact - comes from space heating and hot water. Using a lot of energy tends to mean a lot of potential for savings, and there are steps you can take to do just that – starting with understanding your heating system. The most cost-efficient changes to reduce heating costs include:

  • installing more insulation wherever possible,
  • fitting better controls and
  • using chemical inhibitors to ensure your central heating system is operating efficiently.

If you’ve got an old system, it could be time for a change – maybe even to a form of renewable heating. This is, of course, a larger undertaking – but one with repeated savings for years to come.

Homes are multi-faceted energy consumers – but perhaps TVs aren’t quite the terrors they once were. While it’s certainly worth keeping on top of what your entertainment and communications technology is contributing to your bills and emissions, some of the biggest potential savings can still be achieved where the less flashy devices are concerned: washers, fridges and boilers.

There are ways to use less energy available in almost every home - by engaged behaviour and sensible purchasing power, it is possible to get the same or better performance for less.

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Gary Hartley's picture
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.