What’s the big deal about energy efficient TVs?

On average, TVs consume about 4% of a household’s electricity use.  This doesn’t sound like much, until you consider there are about 275 million TVs currently in use in the U.S.  Together, our TVs consume over 50 billion kWh of energy each year, enough electricity to power all the homes in the state of New York for an entire year.

TV manufacturers have made huge strides in creating energy efficient sets in recent years.  Still, for many buyers it’s challenging to find the most efficient models available.  To help you make the best choice for your electricity budget, TopTen took an in-depth look at the market for TVs.  The most relevant information is located here, including our criteria for selecting the ten most efficient products.

Where do we get our info?

Energy Star, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the California Energy Commission and several professional and manufacturing trade publications provided valuable information about the TVs listed at TopTen.  For a complete bibliography, read How We Evaluate.  Resources are listed at the end of that page.

How do we decide which TVs to include?


  • The ENERGY STAR database lists 217 TVs.  TOP TEN separated this list into three categories based on diagonal screen size:
    • Small : 15 to 32 inches
    • Medium : >32 to <46 inches
    • Large: ≥46 inches.
  • Having evaluated the TVs from Energy Star’s list, we can now share information about those with the highest energy efficiency in each size category.
  • See How We Evaluate for data

Why do some products have more than one model name?

Throughout the Energy Star database, we found two or more different models of the same size, resolution, and display technology from the same manufacturer listed separately, even though their total energy consumption values are quite similar or identical.  Sometimes model names change from one year to the next.  Manufacturers also create different model names to distinguish TVs with cosmetic differences, or other minor changes in features that do not have a meaningful impact on energy use.  To avoid multiple listings of the same product sold under different model numbers, we combined all such models into a single family of products, listing them only once, but providing a link to the other products within the same family under “similar models”.

How do we calculate cost savings? 

We base operational costs on the following assumptions:  Most TVs last about 10 years.  Most people watch about 5 hours of TV a day.  Energy efficient TVs consume between 0.3w and 1w while asleep or off (unless you pull the plug or turn off the power strip it’s plugged into).  Although electricity costs vary by location, the average cost is $0.10/kWh. 

The two factors that help us determine the money you’ll save are Watts consumed while the TV is on and Watts consumed while the TV is off.

Will I pay premium prices for energy efficient TVs?

No. Energy efficient TVs sell for about the median price of all televisions that size.

Why can’t I just use my computer monitor to watch TV?

Both televisions and computer monitors are electronic devices that display audiovisual content, and some televisions can connect to a computer via a USB or other port.  However, TVs have a built-in tuner that picks up off-air broadcasts.  Computer monitors do not contain a tuner.

What makes a TV energy efficient?

Energy efficient TVs incorporate numerous energy-saving technologies and features.  These include: automatic brightness control, LCD display, and LED backlighting.

  • Integrated into the TV, Automatic Brightness Control saves energy by automatically adjusting the brightness of a television based upon ambient lighting conditions.
  • For 60 years, TV displays were made with Cathode Ray Tubes.  CRTs are both inefficient and contain toxic mercury.  Liquid Crystal Display (LCD): LCDs are the most popular type of television technology in use today.  They use a very bright fluorescent or LED backlight and millions of individual liquid crystals that can either absorb or transmit that light through individual red, blue, and green sub-pixels that together constitute individual pixels.
  • LED Backlighting:  LED backlighting uses less energy than fluorescent backlighting.  Backlights can be arranged in a full array behind the screen panel, or around the edges of the panel.  Edge lighting uses less energy than full array backlighting.