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Ask the Editors: Does calibration reduce power consumption?

CNET editors answer a reader question about whether calibration can save energy.


Q: I heard that TV calibration could reduce energy consumption and therefore reduce costs to operate. Do you have any evidence of that? --Scott, via e-mail

A: Yes it does and yes I do, but first it's worth mentioning that you don't necessarily need to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional calibration to get the savings.

What saves energy and operating costs, as well as increases product lifespan, is reducing light output. That's typically controlled by the contrast or "picture" control and, in an LCD TV, the backlight control. Since calibration usually involves reducing light output from the very bright default picture settings, it will generally result in cost savings. The picture is still plenty bright after calibration, especially for the kind of darkened home theater environment more conducive to watching movies, it's just not as blindingly bright as the default modes often used to compete with other TVs on the showroom floor.

We have plenty of firsthand evidence of reduced energy consumption. CNET performs a calibration of the user-menu controls for every TV we review, and we post our settings along with each review for any user to try on their own TVs.

Afterward, we measure the power consumption of each TV both before and after calibration. Among HDTVs we've reviewed and calibrated, the average wattage consumed by plasma TVs before and after calibration is 365 and 290 watts respectively, a savings of 21 percent. Among LCDs, it's 213 and 128 watts respectively, or an even more impressive 39 percent. Rear-projection TVs are much lower, at just 212 and 186 watts respectively, a savings of 12 percent.

With the introduction of new Energy Star standards and the resulting lower light output for default picture settings, those percentages will dwindle somewhat.