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The US' TV energy ratings don't reflect the real world

Engadget logo Engadget 26/09/2016 Jon Fingas
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If you were hoping that your new, energy-efficient TV might help save the planet (and your power bill), you're in for bad news. Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, has published research showing that the US' energy ratings for TVs (such as EnergyGuide and Energy Star) don't line up with consumption in the real world. Tests on 2015 and 2016 sets from LG, Samsung and Vizio show that they use "up to twice" as much energy as claimed, often by turning off power-saving features with "little to no" warning. Some switch off the eco-friendly mode if you so much as change the picture settings, for example, while high dynamic range video will jack up the energy draw by 30 to 50 percent. Even the test footage used for government tests doesn't reflect the electricity you'd use in real-life viewing, the Council adds.

The NRDC goes so far as to accuse TV makers of "exploiting weaknesses" in US energy tests, designing TVs that feign compliance in test conditions but flout the rules when they're in your living room.

None of the TV makers dispute the basic data, although the Consumer Technology Association unsurprisingly takes issue with the claims of sinister intentions. It insists that the NRDC is pushing "sensational-but-meaningless headlines" and showing an "inexplicable hostility" toward an industry that, in the long run, has saved a tremendous amount of power through TVs that honor EnergyGuide and Energy Star.

The CTA has a vested interest in defending TVs. They're still the Association's bread and butter, as any CES attendee can tell you. However, it's true that TVs have become more efficient over the years, and there's no concrete evidence that TV brands are cheating. Rather, the major concern is simply that TV energy ratings are behind the times. The Department of Energy's testing method is 8 years old, the NRDC notes -- it came about well before the advent of HDR and 4K screens. Officials may need to not only update their guidelines, but take a new approach that constantly adapts to evolving technology.


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