CES 2011: What Does the 3D TV Rush Mean For Our Energy Consumption?


Samsung displays the "world's largest" 3D LED TV; Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch

3D TVs, projectors, cameras -- it's all the rage this year at CES and the next wave of entertainment. Practically every major company that plays a role in entertainment electronics, from televisions to cameras, has their fingers in the 3D cookie jar. There's even a 3D@Home zone at CES. We've been doing so well with energy consumption on electronics, including pulling energy hogs off of store shelves, but with the new wave of three dimensional entertainment (and with a Sharp representative telling me yesterday that 70-inch TVs are now the mainstream size instead of 40-inch TVs in part because of 3D), what does this transition mean for energy consumption?

Every major manufacturer of TVs at CES is showing off one or several models of 3D television. You can walk up to practically any booth and immediately slip on a pair of 3D glasses to check out their displays. However, harder to find is information about the power consumption of the televisions. While the booths usually have a display comparing the power draw from old models and new 2D models to show their improvements, the energy specs of the new 3D models are surprisingly absent.

For example, as Samsung notes on their website, to watch 3D you need: 3D TV, 3D Content (Blu-ray 3D movie); 3D Active Glasses; Blu-ray 3D player. As far as the television goes, they offer the LED C7000. In the specs, they provide zippo info about how many watts it uses. They mention that the stand swivels and has four legs...but not about such important information as how many watts it uses. They only state under the "Power" section that it uses Eco Mark and Eco Sensor. What that is, who knows? Certainly not the consumer glancing through the specs.

When I visited the Sharp booth, I got the tour of the 3D TVs but when I asked about their power consumption, no one seemed to have the information readily available. With a little digging around on the website, they show that their 52" LC-60LE925UN model requires 240 watts. Most of their other 52" models require just 170-180 watts.

While companies seem hesitant to mention the power consumption of their 3D TV models, they're more than excited to showcase how they continue to reduce the power consumption of televisions across the board. And it's true -- compared to just a few years ago, televisions are making serious headway in reducing electricity use thanks to technologies like LED side- and backlighting.

However, as noted by David Katzmaier, Senior Editor at CNET in a panel on energy efficiency during CES, the TVs aren't necessarily the thing to worry about with energy efficiency, it's also about what you plug into it. The gaming consoles, the DVR boxes, and so on are real power sucks and they don't seem to be getting better very fast. Blu-ray home entertainment systems -- which inevitably people will buy along with their new 3D TV, require anywhere from 1,000 to 1,400 watts for the player and speakers. Gaming consoles are already huge power draws and there's no doubt that 3D gaming is on its way. Just how much energy will playing a 3D video game require in another year or two?

As is, 3D TVs certainly need more energy to function, but that will probably improve fairly rapidly as display technology improves. But will peripheral device energy consumption improve along with it? Also, what will people do with their 2D TVs as they purchase new 3D TVs and required equipment? Probably still use them but in bedrooms or spare rooms. Overall, the power draw from televisions in homes is set to go up thanks to 3D.

While 3D is all the rage right now and we're seeing it from every major television manufacturer, we definitely need to keep a close eye on just what that means to our overall power consumption.

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Tags: CES | Electronics | Energy Efficiency | Environmental Footprint | Television

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