What you need to know about TV power consumption

How much does it cost to run your TV? The answer may surprise you.

This 65-inch plasma is the most power-hungry TV we've ever tested. It uses $6.77 per month in electricity. Sarah Tew/CNET

Since 2011 the FTC has required that every TV display a yellow and black Energy Guide label estimating how much it costs to run for a year. The label assumes a price for electricity (11 cents/kWh) and a baseline usage (5 hours per day).

The cost is tiny. A typical label can read anywhere from $6 for 32-inch LEDs to $38 for 65-inch plasmas (PDF). Per year. That's from 50 cents to $3.18 per month. If that's the definition of chump change to you, you're probably not alone.

That's the primary reason I stopped widely testing TV power consumption a couple of years ago (plasmas are the exception; I still test consumption by those). Simply put, TV manufacturers have done a good-enough job of managing TV power that the operating cost became negligible. And once people realize how cheap even the biggest TVs are to run, energy use largely stops being a factor in the purchasing decision.

Here's the official Energy Guide label for a 65-inch 2013 plasma TV. Your mileage may vary. ABT.com

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that. I like to think of the Energy Guide number as the minimum it'll cost to run the TV. It's determined using the default picture settings, which are often (especially on plasma TVs) dimmer than what people end up using at home. Since most TVs' default picture settings incorporate a room lighting sensor, watching in a bright room may in turn automatically make the image brighter and thus use more power.

You may also watch for longer than 5 hours per day or live in an area where electricity is more expensive. Residential energy prices vary widely according to season and state. Connecticut residents, who pay the most in the U.S., should probably tack an extra couple of bucks on to the sticker figure.

But even if you double the figures on the Energy Guide label, even the largest, least efficient TVs still cost less per month than a decent lunch. The most power-hungry TV I've recently tested, Panasonic's 65-inch TC-P65VT50, costs about $81 per year, or $6.77 per month. And that's after calibrating the picture so it's suitable for viewing in moderate lighting.

Here's a list of various recent TVs we measured for power use after calibration. They appear in order of how much they cost in electricity, assuming the same per-kWh cost and usage as the Energy Guide labels.

Make and model Size (inches) Type Energy cost/year Energy cost/month
Samsung UN32EH4000 32 LED $9.76 $0.81
LG 47LM7600 47 LED $9.83 $0.82
Sony KDL-55W900 55 LED $13.26 $1.11
Toshiba 50L5200U 50 LED $15.72 $1.31
Sony KDL-46EX640 46 LED $15.98 $1.33
Vizio E601i-A3 60 LED $17.62 $1.47
Panasonic TC-L55DT60 55 LED $20.78 $1.73
Sharp LC-80LE632U 80 LED $26.39 $2.20
Samsung PN51E450 51 plasma $27.48 $2.29
Panasonic TC-P50S60 50 plasma $44.14 $3.68
LG 50PM9700 50 plasma $44.65 $3.72
Panasonic TC-P55ST60 55 plasma $54.73 $4.56
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 65 plasma $81.22 $6.77

Eco-minded TV shopping tips

Are you still concerned about how much juice your next TV will use? Here are a few tips on how to keep the power bills very slightly lower, and do something to help the environment, while you watch TV.

  • Buy an LED TV . They use one-half to one-quarter the power of a comparably sized plasma. Some LEDs are more efficient than others; local-dimming models , for example, can use less power. Look for Energy Star's Most Efficient designation for the most miserly.
  • Buy a smaller TV. A 32-inch LED TV uses about half the energy of a 60-incher.
  • Watch with a dimmer picture. Light output is the largest factor in how much power a given TV uses. Try turning down the backlight control or engaging the power-saver setting.
  • Watch less TV. In case you're wondering, TV "standby" power use amounts to pennies per year.

If TV power use matters to you, let me know why in comments.

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic TC-L55DT60

The Bottom Line: The Panasonic DT60 is an attractive looking, well-featured LED LCD TV, but mediocre picture quality and worse value make it a tough sell. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Samsung

The Bottom Line: The Samsung E450 series plasma may not be perfect, but you won't find another TV that performs this well for this low a price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

LG 47LM7600

The Bottom Line: If you've been holding out for an LED TV with picture quality that mostly lives up to its stunning design and cutting-edge features, the LM7600 series deserves a look. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic TC-P50S60

The Bottom Line: The Panasonic TC-PS60 plasma TV's low price, high-end picture quality, and bare-bones Smarts make it one of the best values we've ever seen. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

LG 50PM9700

The Bottom Line: The LG PM9700 series improves on the company's 2011 plasmas, but it's unable to compete with similarly priced TVs. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic TC-P55ST60

The Bottom Line: The midlevel price and outstanding quality of the Panasonic TC-PST60 series make it our strongest TV recommendation ever. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Sony KDL-55W900A

The Bottom Line: The Sony W900A is a fine high-end LED LCD television, with excellent color performance and deep black levels. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Toshiba 50L5200U

The Bottom Line: The bare-bones Toshiba L5200 series offers respectable value for the money with fine picture quality for an edge-lit LED TV. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Vizio E601i-A3

The Bottom Line: The Vizio E701i-A3 is the best value yet among 70-inch LED TVs. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Sony KDL-46EX640

The Bottom Line: Sony's EX640 series is one of the better deals from the company, with decent picture quality and features for the price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Sharp LC-80LE632U

The Bottom Line: If you're just looking to wow your friends or fill a wall, then the 80-inch Sharp LC-80LE632U is one of the best TVs you can buy, but ho-hum picture quality makes it a questionable value. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic TC-P65VT50

The Bottom Line: The Panasonic TC-PVT50 series represents the pinnacle of current flat-panel TV picture quality. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Samsung UN32EH4000

The Bottom Line: The Samsung EH4000 is one of the best TVs available at the size and price, with above-average picture quality and a svelte design. / Read full review

About the author

Section Editor David Katzmaier has reviewed TVs at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com.

 

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