How will California's new TV energy standards affect you?

California has become the first state to mandate energy-efficiency standards for TV sets. These new regulations will affect all residents.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
Doug Pongrazc checks out a large screen television while shopping at a Best Buy store in Elk Grove, Calif. The state has imposed a first-in-the nation mandate on TV energy use, intended to lower electricity demand.

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved new energy-efficiency standards to regulate how much electricity television sets sold in the state can consume.

When do the standards take effect? Jan. 1, 2011, with more stringent rules kicking in two years later.

Do they apply to the TV sets I currently own?  No. They also don't apply to any television set you buy next year. And you can keep using your TVs as long as they last.

What television sets will be regulated?  All that measure 58 inches (1,400 square inches) or smaller.

How will future TVs be affected? By 2011, television sets sold in California stories must use a third less power than they do now. That goes up to a 49 percent power savings by 2013.

Why did the commission impose regulations on TV sets? Because flat-screen TVs use a great deal of energy. The LA Times explains:

Since the sale of flat-panel televisions began to rocket at the beginning of the decade, TV-related power usage more than tripled to 10 billion kilowatt-hours per year, accounting for nearly 10 percent of residential electricity consumption, said Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld, a nuclear physicist and University of California, Berkeley professor.

The commission's website adds:

In California, televisions (along with DVRs, DVD players, and cable boxes) now consume 10 percent of a home's electricity. Increasing sales of flat screen televisions, larger screen sizes, the growing number of TVs per household, and increased daily use of televisions all contribute to greater electricity consumption.

You can already buy television sets that meet the new standards, says the commission, which provides a PDF list of them.

Will TV sets that meet the new standards cost more?  That's unclear at the moment. The commission says they shouldn't. A TV manufacturer says they won't cost too much more.

How much energy will you save because of the new regulations? From $18 to $30 per TV per year, the commission estimates. That could add up to $8 billion statewide by 2021, according to one calculation.

By 2013, the savings will be enough to "power 864,000 single-family homes for an entire year," the commission says. "That's enough electricity to power the cities of Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale, and Palo Alto combined."

Do other states regulate energy consumption of TVs? No, California is first. But others are considering it.

Industry groups are not happy with the mandate, saying that it "will endanger jobs, innovation and consumer choice."

Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many environment topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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