Flip through any glossy home magazine or walk into any showpiece dwelling, and you're likely to see several sizable flat-panel TVs. They are much less obtrusive than old CRT models, and their slick, high-technology feel is both futuristic and trendy.
More and more people are buying flat panels, whether for home, the office or even pimped-out vehicles. Plus, with new broadcast requirements set to roll out next year, many people are looking to upgrade to a new set. (Of course some economists would like you to use that federal tax rebate for this purpose, though it may not be the smartest decision for you).
Not all flat-panels are LCDs (liqud crystal displays). Some are plasma, some are LEDs (light emitting diodes) and other technologies are in development, or appear in special applications (such as cell phones). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, televisions in 2005 consumed more than 4,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity, costing more than $424 billion. Though there weren't many flat panels around then, there are many more today, and many models use significant amounts of juice (especially plasmas).
In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported in December that a 42-inch plasma set can consume more electricity than a full-size refrigerator even when that TV is used only a few hours a day.
Luckily, the EPA's Energy Star program plans to rate flat panel TVs by the end of 2008, which will significantly help consumers in making choices. The logo will reportedly require TVs to be 30% more efficient than "conventional models."
In the meantime, the industry group LCD TV Association has announced a GreenTV logo program. The stated goals include working toward reducing the industry's overall carbon footprint, increasing use of recyclable parts, reducing heavy metals, incorporating ambient light sensors and boosting efficiency. Those manufacturers who participate in the program will be able to use the logo.
The association's website doesn't yet have any info about the program, but the announced effort is a good sign that the industry is anticipating consumer concern. Industry-sponsored initiatives like this can help make a difference, but consumers do need to be aware that such labels are often not as rigorous as government and truly third-party certifications. In this case, it is too early to say how valuable and "green" the LCD TV Association's logo will be, but it is one to watch.
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