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Green Building News

California’s Efficiency Standards Applied to TVs

New rules don’t affect current retail inventory or TVs already in homes, but will take effect by 2011

Appetites for power. A comparison of average energy usage among LCD, plasma, and CRT televisions.
Image Credit: California Energy Commission staff

Televisions this week became subject to California Energy Commission regulations, joining the ranks of other potential power hogs – including buildings, air-conditioners, and refrigerators – that have been forced to meet the state’s energy efficiency standards.

The requirements apply to TVs – virtually all of them flat-panels – with a screen size of 58 inches or smaller. By 2011, all such TVs sold in the state must consume at least 33% less electricity. The efficiency standard rises to 49% by 2013. TVs currently on store shelves and in homes aren’t subject to the new rules. Stores also will be allowed to sell off their existing TV inventory after January 1, 2011, even if it doesn’t meet the first-tier standard.

In the run-up to the CEC’s unanimous vote on Wednesday, the commission posted an FAQ on its rationale for the efficiency standards, including the near-ubiquity of flat-panel sets that, as a previous GBA post noted, use at least 43% more electricity, on average, than conventional tube TVs. The CEC also said that TVs now soak up about 10% of the power generated in the state and sell at a rate of about 4 million a year in California.

Opposing views

Among the expected benefits of the new TV standards: a savings of $8.1 billion in energy costs over 10 ten years. The CEC’s deliberations and decision were accompanied, as expected, by resistance from the Consumer Electronics Association and other sources unenthusiastic about rules they say are unnecessary and costly to consumers.

In a press release, the CEA called the regulations “bad policy — dangerous for the California economy, dangerous for technology innovation, and dangerous for consumer freedom. Instead of allowing customers to choose the products they want, the commission has decided to impose arbitrary standards that will hamper innovation and limit consumer choice. It will result in higher prices for consumers, job losses for Californians, and lost tax revenue for the state.”

The CEA also promised to pursue “legislative and legal solutions to ensure that California citizens will not suffer the consequences of this misguided policy.”

It’s not yet clear most consumers will become fraught with anxiety over the regulations, however. The technology to make TVs more energy efficient doesn’t have to be developed – it already exists. The California Energy Commission has posted a list of more than 1,000 TV models that already meet the 2011 standard; more than 280 of those on the list (including some with screens much larger than 58 inches) also meet the 2013 standard. Efficient TVs, the commission says, are not necessarily more expensive than the power-hungry ones, and offer the same picture quality.

And despite their level of frustration with the commission’s new regulations, those who oppose them probably aren’t at all surprised they passed. California’s energy efficiency standards – including its Title 24 building code – already are relatively stringent. The CEC points out that the state’s per capita electricity use has remained flat for the past 30 years compared to the rest of the nation, which has increased its energy consumption by 40%. Setting energy efficiency standards for TVs was a logical step toward maintaining precedent.


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