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Finding the Greenest Televisions

We have not updated information about greenest television is a couple of years due to lack of progress in the area, but it was time to circle back. Or comparisons show mixed progress. Samsung is the manufacturer doing the best.

The CES Innovation Awards in January 2017 featured an "Eco-Design and Sustainable Technologies" category. Two televisions were honored in this category. The 75" Samsung 75UJ6570 offers "... a new pixel structure that reduces power consumption..." The 55" Samsung MU7000 "...uses energy-saving single-side LED technology and other innovative eco-friendly features to achieve a significantly reduced environmental impact..."

The United States Environmental Protection Agency gave Samsung the Cutting Edge Champion Award in its 2016 Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge. "Samsung is recognized for the Cadmium-free Quantum Dot ultra-high definition televisions, an industry first. The resulting TVs are free of cadmium – a hazardous heavy metal – and use less materials and energy than other HDTVs, with properties that allow for better light efficiency and improved durability."

Despite this, the EPEAT registry for televisions is worse than when we looked two years ago. There are no Gold units and only 65 Silver, down 64%. Samsung makes 58 models; the others are from LG.

On the other hand, Scandinavia's Nordic Ecolabel (Svanen) registry lists 76 televisions, up from 9 in 2013. Samsung makes 66 models; the others are from Philips.

Germany's Blue Angel lists four Philips model series.

The accuracy of energy ratings may being undercut by manufacturers' trying to game the evaluations. The National Resources Defense Council reported in September 2016 that, "New televisions purchased over the past few years may cost consumers at least $1.2 billion more on their electricity bills than anticipated...due to deficiencies in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) method for testing the energy use of all new television models, which some manufacturers may be exploiting to achieve lower energy usage during testing than in real-world viewing. In addition, TVs from the leading manufacturers—Samsung, Vizio, and LG (which together make up half of the market)—are designed to disable key energy-saving features, often without adequate on-screen warning, whenever a user changes the default picture setting. Generating this extra electricity over the lifetimes of these new televisions...will create an additional five million metric tons of the dangerous carbon dioxide pollution fueling climate change."

The Guardian had reported a similar situation a year earlier. "Independent lab tests have found that some Samsung TVs in Europe appear to use less energy during official testing conditions than they do during real-world use, raising questions about whether they are set up to game energy efficiency tests. The European commission says it will investigate any allegations of cheating the tests and has pledged to tighten energy efficiency regulations to outlaw the use of so-called “defeat devices” in TVs or other consumer products, after several EU states raised similar concerns."

2015

The search for the greenest TVs continues to be challanging. EPEAT added televisions to its equipment registry in early 2013. We had anticipated this would bring some clarity to this category. There were significantly less Gold-registered televisions April 2014, compared with computer monitors, but we saw that to be a good start. We were wrong.

A year later, there are NO models in the Gold registry and only 180 in Silver. Very disappointing.

If you are just interested in energy efficiency, you can search ENERGY STAR®'s database of 1300+ qualified models. The database's search engine lets you narrow down choices by size and other factors. Samsung offer the most models - 200 at the time of this update..

2013

Greenpeace Survey (Jan '11) rates products submitted by participating manufacturers on a 10-point scale. The hypothetical score of a "fictional product that combined the best features of all submitted products within each category" is 7.68 for notebooks. Models scoring 5.00 or better were Sharp LC-52SE1 (6.46), Panasonic TC-42LD24 (5.18), and Sony KDL-32EX710 (5.07).

CNET (Apr '10) looks just at energy consumption. Properly calibrated, these LED models only consume 0.071-0.086 watts per square inch: Sharp LC-46LE700UN; LG 47LE8500; Vizio VF551XVT, VF552XVT; Samsung UN55C8000; and Sony KDL-46EX700, KDL-52NX800. Note that these are 46"-55" models. Many smaller LED/LCD displays will use less energy overall.

Greenpeace's Green Electronics Search (Jan 09) evaluates televisions on 20+ criteria in chemicals, energy use, lifecycle and other categories publishes its final rankings on a 10-point scale. Top units were the Sharp LC-52GX5 (5.92), the Sony KDL32JE1 (5.84), and the Panasonic TH-42PZ80U (4.96). Greenpeace does not appear to publish its entire listing of evaluated products.

Greererone.com appears to use a combination of crowd-sourcing and criteria based on materials, manufacturing process, usage, and disposal to rank products on a 10-point scale. The site does not appear to publish a product's score for each criterion like Greenpeace does. Three models currently score 8/10, all Philips: 19PFL3403D/27, 15MF227B/27, 19MF337B/27. About 65 models from various manufacturers get a score of 7. The good news is that the entire database is online, but there are no review dates. Performance is sluggish; the site has labeled "beta" for at least four months.

Pcmag.com's "The Greenest HDTVs" (Jul 09) lists 7 models from 7 manufacturers as "some of the greenest TVs we've seen." Two score 4 out of 5 bullets and are rated as Editors' Choice: Sharp Aquos LC-52D85U and Sony Bravia KDL-46XBR8. No indication as to how many models were evaluated in total.

Greenopia.com rates televisions on a scale using 1-4 "leaf" icons: "Four-Leaf Rated listings meet our most stringent criteria while One-Leaf Rated listings meet our minimum qualifying standards." No television gets 4 or 3 leafs. The Sony 32" BRAVIA LCD (JE1 series) and the Vizio 32" ECO Friendly 720p LCD each get a Two-Leaf rating. Greenopia provides more detail on their rating system in the comment, below.

EU EcoLabel (Eco Flower) lists lots of TV models from LG (12), Philips (49), Samsung (29), Sharp (34), and Sony (50) The Nordic Swan ecolabel lists 9 Samsung models.

Some listings use model numbers while others use model names: I had to do some research to verify that Greenpeace and Greenopia are both referencing the same Sony unit. Model numbers vary from country to country, as well: EcoLabel lists 7 Sony Bravia KDL series units, but none of the models match the above references.

Another approach is to shop by brand, but this can be equally perplexing. Greenopia.com currently ranks Samsung and Sony as tops in is list of 15 HDTV brands, but the Greenpeaceranks them as #2 and #8 (respectively) on its list of 18 consumer electronics brands (Sep 09).

We can be greener by being attentive to our specs before we start shopping. LCD displays generally consume less energy per square inch than plasma displays; smaller displays generally consume less power than larger ones. And don't forget to check how much energy a planned purchase consumes when it is turned 'off' - standby (vampire) power consumption varies among brands and models.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires that "Televisions manufactured after May 10, 2011 must display EnergyGuide labels so consumers shopping for TVs will have more information about different models and how much energy they use." Click here for details.

The bottom line is that green buying in this category is still very difficult. Please post a comment if you know of any other good listings of television displays.