Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

TVs – What a Waste… And Not Just of Time

by Michelle Mather

Treehugger recently reported that the  switch to digital TVs in the U.S. had rather unfriendly eco consequences. They estimate that approximately 28.5 million TVs were discarded as people replaced them with HDTVs.  This resulted in nearly 2 billion pounds of electronic waste and an estimated landfill cost of nearly 40 million dollars. Yikes!  (from:

Before the push for HDTVs, there was a push for big screen TVs and now as I drive around at night, and see the glow from the TV in peoples’ living rooms, I am amazed at how many of the TVs are of the big screen variety! Cam and I still have the same TV we purchased just after we got married 27 years ago. It still has amazing colour and works well. It uses just 75 watts of electricity when it is on which is a fraction of what most of the big screen TVs draw, especially plasma TVs which are particularly energy inefficient.

In a chart (available here showing HDTV power consumption, a typical 52″ LCD TV draws over 285 watts while a 50″ plasma TV uses between 400 and 500 watts of electricity every hour that it is turned on!

Even when you aren’t actually watching your TV it is using electricity. Remember when we were kids and if we wanted to watch TV we turned it on and waited for it to warm up? Not anymore, as TVs have an “instant on” feature and are ready when you are.

The following quote comes from

“According to The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith, a 42-inch plasma TV set can draw more power than a large refrigerator, even if the TV is only used a few hours a day. This is partly because many newer models don’t turn off but go into “standby” mode so they can start up fast later with no warm-up period. “Powering a fancy TV and full-on entertainment system—with set-top boxes, game consoles, speakers, DVDs and digital video recorders—can add nearly $200 to a family’s annual energy bill,” she adds. “

In “The Renewable Energy Handbook” Bill Kemp discusses “phantom loads” which are electrical loads that aren’t doing immediate work for you. Your television is one of the phantom loads that continue to use electricity, 24 hours a day, whether you are watching it or not. When you live in an off-grid home, every watt counts and you sure don’t want to be wasting precious electricity on phantom loads! But even if you are on the grid, with seemingly unlimited electricity, you should consider how much these phantom loads are costing you to run.

Below is a chart from “The Renewable Energy Handbook” which shows a number of electronic devices that are found in many homes and the energy costs per year to run these. It’s been estimated that phantom loads cost U.S. consumers about $3 billion (yes, BILLION) dollars a year. Phantom loads often account for 15% of a home’s energy use!

What can be done to avoid these staggering costs? The same thing that we do in our off-grid house. Put these phantom loads on a power bar so that you can completely turn the power off to them when you are finished using them. This includes your stereo, coffee maker, microwave oven (that digital clock draws power), your DVD player (another clock there!) and your TV too. Sure, it might take a moment to warm up when you do decide to watch it, but your energy savings will  add up and your carbon footprint will shrink!



  1. this is so true! i reckon if people cut down or at least used a smaller watt usage it would help so much

  2. Robert Hammond

    A good post (as always) but like so many obvious solutions unplugging everything doesn’t always work that well. Unless you have a dedicated cable tv box older tv’s and vcr’s come back on and insist on being reprogrammed before they can be used. I’m in favour of saving money/ energy of course but pretty typical in being far too lazy to reprogram the dvd and the tv and the vcr just to save a few dozen watts every day.
    The solution is better product design engineering so that the date and time is not lost with the ac power. That won’t happen until there is a good economic reason or consumer demand for the ‘feature.’ Until then we will continue to have vcr’s and microwaves flashing 12:00.

  3. Larry

    A 9volt battery backup is all that is needed to save all the presets. My clock radio has had that feature for years. Not that I use the clock radio of course….I use a sundial now to save power. 😉

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