TVs that save money and the environment are on the way, but what’s taking so long? Ella Smith reports the slow progress of the energy labelling scheme

With Australian households having an average of 2.4 each, it’s easy to see how our appetite for televisions is contributing more than ever to levels of greenhouse gases. But it’s not just that we’re watching more sets in more rooms of the house more often, and all at once, it’s because the LCD and plasma panels that are stampeding out of retailer stores into Australian lounge rooms demand far more energy than the traditional, smaller-screen CRT sets we’ve moved into the kids’ room, or placed on the median strip for the council clean-up.

TV energy use has increased fourfold from 1986 to 2006, according to an E3 Television Industry meeting report tabled in July 2008. One industry source we spoke to for this story claims that if you compare the average size CRT at 68 cm and the average-sized LCD and plasma at 106 cm, there would be around a 2:1 power consumption difference between CRT televisions and LCD and plasma televisions.

Compounding the issue is our appetite for larger screen sizes. Every square centimetre of screen draws power (though the relationship between size and watts is logarithmic rather than linear), and while 106 cm televisions are currently the most popular size, the 127 cm upgrade option (and tomorrow’s replacement market leader) presents almost 20 percent more surface area. Ever larger screens are in the works too, with Panasonic offering a 261 cm (103 inch) model and Sharp a 274 cm (108 inch) model. There might not ever be a huge domestic market for these sizes, but as more homes tool up for the 2013 digital TV switchover you can bet the number of large-screen flat panel TVs being installed into living rooms will explode.

If the environmental imperatives aren’t enough to motivate you, consider the personal dollar cost to your household. Your televisions are now costing you more to run that ever before, and with across the board price hikes forecast by major electricity suppliers next year, there will be only more to pay.

Fast facts

  • TVs account for 7.5 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 emissions annually. With the growth of LCD and plasma TV take up rates, this could grow to as much as 20 MT in 2020 — the same amount generated annually by 5 million cars.
  • Australians own around 2.4 TVs per household.
  • There are more than 17 million TVs in Australia with a further two million sold each year. Of these, 55% are LCD TVs, 21% are plasma TVs and conventional sets make up the remaining 19%, according to GfK data for the 12 months to September 2008.