Televisions provide entertainment galore but they blow through a lot of energy in the process, especially if you have a super-size plasma flat screen or if you're a TV gaming addict. Fortunately, there are some simple habits you can adopt to shave your TV-linked power consumption that'll save some bucks on your electricity bill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
How to practice energy-saving TV habits
- Power off. When you're done watching the show or the movie, or playing the video game, make sure you turn off the set. That goes for VCRs, DVRs, DVD players, and game consoles as well. If you like having the television on for background noise, try a radio, singing to yourself, grab a guitar, or just enjoy the peace and quiet.
- Really power off. Even when turned off, many electronics and appliances, including TVs, VCRs, DVDs, and set top boxes, draw a standby flow of electricity called the phantom load. Americans spend $750 million annually on electricity use in televisions that are turned off. Get around this by unplugging your TV and add-ons, or even easier, install a power strip and shut down a bunch of electronics with one switch.
- Adjust the settings. If you have an inkling of techie in you, attempt these easy adjustments to reduce the energy your TV uses.
- Many TVs have a power-saver mode; if yours does, make sure it's turned on.
- LCD televisions often give owners the option to control the backlight's intensity and turning it down will save power.
- You may also reduce a TV's light output by playing with the "contrast" or "picture" controls.
- Set the mood. Watching TV in a dim or dark room helps save energy due to the lower light and shows off the reduced brightness settings to their best potential. You may also get a cool, home theater feel. Also, if you use some heavy duty blackout shades to shut out the light, you'll get the energy bonus of saving some heat when it's cold out and keeping the room cooler in the summer.
- Don't go multiple. A growing trend is for Americans to have a main television accompanied by sets in the kitchen and/or bedrooms. If you're still a one-set household, fight any urge to grow your TV family. More TVs means more power used, which means more greenhouse gases generated. Plus, having one TV encourages household togetherness and healthy intra-family squabbling about control of the remote and who's watching what.
- Resist the lure of the huge screen TV. A new TV purchase can be an emotional decision but don't let all the eye candy in the electronics store cloud your green judgment. Power consumption rates vary by type of TV, with plasma televisions generally using the most electricity and traditional tube TVs using the least. But whatever type you choose, a smaller size screen will suck less power and probably cost you less money.
- Watch less television. Get off the couch and do something else — inside or out. Read, write, draw, run, bike, volunteer, knit, swim, play a game with your kids, or walk your dog. Also, consider trying TV turnoff week in April.
Practicing energy-saving habits helps you go green because…
- Your household will consume less electricity, which means its use will produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
A lot of these new models are bigger and come with more bells and whistles than the ones they replaced, and those enhancements need electricity to fuel them. A 28-inch boxy analog television, which was once the norm and is still used in about 21 million American households, runs on about 100 watts of electricity. A common upgrade, a 42-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) flat panel, sucks up twice that amount. A 42-inch plasma flat panel set, the biggest power guzzler, uses 200 to 500 watts, which can exceed that of a full-size refrigerator, even though the TV's only turned on for a few hours a day.
Looking at it another way, sitting in front of your plasma television for three hours a day will increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 250 kilograms annually, or less than half the amount for a LCD. Practicing simple energy-saving moves will save you money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whether you own the latest razor thin LCD flat screen or watch a tube TV with rabbit ear antennas.
- analog television: Traditional analog TVs introduced in the 1930s contain cathode ray tubes or CRTs, hence the nickname "the tube." They function by sending an electron beam through a vacuum tube toward a screen coated with phosphor. When the beam strikes the surface of the screen it produces images.
- liquid crystal display (LCD) television: LCD technology works by sending varying electrical currents through an ultra thin layer of tiny cells filled with a liquid crystal solution that crystallizes to form the image you see on the screen. These flat panel displays TVs can be placed on a stand or wall-mounted. 
- plasma television: This technology is produced by a layer with millions of tiny glass bubbles that contain a gas-like substance, called plasma, that has a phosphor coating. Each bubble is like a pixel with one red, one green, and one blue subcell. When the TV is turned on, a digitally controlled electric current flows through the flat screen, causing the plasma inside certain bubbles to give off ultraviolet rays. This light causes the phosphor coatings to glow the appropriate color.
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