Buying a new TV that won’t kill your electric bill

Last Updated on April 15, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

As television technology improves, they become more energy efficient. Generally speaking, at least. The CRT TV ranging in size from 26-32 inches that was common in living rooms for most of my lifetime used around 130 watts. But some of the monster TVs people are buying these days use more power than the fridge.

We’re in the market for a TV. We don’t have room for a big monster. We have our 32-inch TV a nice wooden cabinet and want to keep the cabinet. I’ve measured it, and right now, the biggest thing we can fit in there is another 32-inch TV. A 37-inch won’t quite fit. I also don’t want something that’s going to chew up a lot of power. Our electric bill jumped 300 bucks this year–about enough to pay for that TV–and I want to claw some of that back.

Westinghouse Digital is the only company I’ve found that prints its power requirements on the box. Their 32-inch LED TV uses 54 watts and it’s cheap, cheap. It’s the cheapest LED-backlit TV I can find anywhere. But the quality is questionable, and the company is in bankruptcy–Westinghouse Digital uses the Westinghouse name under license; they aren’t affiliated directly with the household-name company named for George Westinghouse. I have reservations about buying a TV of disreputable quality from a company that may not be around long enough to honor the set’s short warranty.

But a visit to Energy Star gives the power usage of other TVs. You can even download a list of qualified TVs as an Excel spreadsheet. Divide the Kw-hrs/Year by 10, and you get an estimate of what they’ll cost to operate per year. I count 15 that use less than the Westinghouse model, including some from companies that will be around a while, like, oh, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony, and Samsung. They cost more than the Westinghouse, but if you’re willing to look at something that uses 20-25% more power, you can find something like this Magnavox 32MF330B/F7, which often sells for under $350 and only costs a couple of dollars per year more to operate. Or if you’re willing to pay a little more, there’s the Panasonic TC-L32X2 or TC-L32C22 that you can find selling in the $350-$360 range with some luck. I provided Amazon links, but the prices tend to swing from competitive to unreasonable from week to week. It’s a good place to find reviews though.

I wish someone else would sell a cut-down, entry level 720P LED TV, but maybe the demand isn’t there yet.

What I did was take the Energy Star spreadsheet, delete all the TVs that were out of my range, and used it to help narrow down my list. The stores near me all seem to sell 10 different 32″ 720p TVs, and stores like Amazon and Newegg pile on a bunch more. But it sure seems like half the TVs that are readily available to me don’t make the cut. Some models have lots of reviews available; others don’t. Lack of positive reviews helps to cut the list down even further.

And there are TVs on the list that I can’t easily find, but I’m not going to worry about those. Some could be exclusives to stores that I don’t have nearby.

Arguably there’s enough information on the spreadsheet now that I can run out and buy something. Or, I can wait for sales. I plan to wait for sales. If I see something good, I’ll know it, and I can pounce on it. A serious oversupply of LCD panels means prices are falling. TVs already cost less than they did last Christmas season, and prices haven’t bottomed out yet. Everything I’ve been reading predicts low-tier 32″ LCDs (think Emerson and Hannspree) will sell for $250 or perhaps even $199 on Black Friday, and established brand-name 32-inchers will be selling for perhaps as little as $300 for most of the month of December. So even though I’ve seen single models from Philips, Panasonic, and Sharp all for under $350 in recent days, I’m holding off.

Yes, it’s more work than buying the first thing I saw. But if the family is going to be staring at something for the next 10 years, I want to make sure it’s something we’ll be reasonably happy with.

There are plenty of models still in the pipeline that use considerably more power–double, or perhaps a bit more. In the case of a 32-inch TV, that will end up costing you $10 more per year to operate. Keep that in mind when looking at older models at blowout pricing. If you’re not careful, you could end up paying back the savings in higher electric bills over the lifespan of the unit, and keep in mind that could easily be 10 years or more.

The difference makes it difficult to justify the extra cost of something like this Samsung unit over the aforementioned Magnavox just on power savings alone. But if you like the picture and sound better, and need the extra inputs over what a basic model offers, it could be worthwhile. A low-end TV isn’t much of a bargain if it doesn’t have enough ports to plug in all of your gear, with at least one extra DVI port for future needs.

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