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It is the old efficiency paradox- as prices drop for big screen TVs, people don't save money on the smaller, more efficient units but go for the biggest one they can afford. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 42-inch plasma set can consume more electricity than a full-size refrigerator -- even when that TV is used only a few hours a day. 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.
When we gather around the old Admiral CRT TV it probably sucks 100 watts of electricity and doesn't have any standby phantom loads. But the WSJ notes that A 42-inch LCD set, a typical upgrade item, requires about twice that amount of electricity. But the real beast is the plasma set. A 42-inch model often sucks up 200 to 500 watts, and a 60-plus-inch plasma screen can consume 500 to 600 watts, depending on the model and programming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"What scares us is the prices for plasma sets are dropping so fast that people are saying, why get a 42-inch plasma set when you can get a 60-inch or 64-inch one," says Tom Reddoch, director of energy efficiency for the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute's laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn., an independent organization that advises the utility sector. "They have no idea how much electricity these things consume."
Doug Johnson, senior director of technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Association, says the industry is working to improve disclosure and energy efficiency. He says comparing television energy use to refrigerator energy use is "hackneyed," adding, "when was the last time the family gathered around the refrigerator to be entertained." (See also Televisions Will Consume More Energy Than a Fridge)