Along with patio heaters, SUVs and incandescent lightbulbs, flat-screen TVs became one of the products most loathed by environmentalists over the past decade. But improving energy efficiency means they have become greener than the hulking cathrode ray tubes they replaced, and cut their average electricity consumption by more than half, new figures show.
Technology advances have driven down the energy use of all new TVs by 60% since 2006, leaving a 42-inch LED TV today costing just £14 a year to run compared with around £80 for a plasma screen in 2006, in present day prices. Over 9.5m flat-screens were sold in the UK last year
Globally TVs account for about 6-8% of electricity consumption in homes.
Ross Lammas, the founder of energy efficiency site Sust-it, who compiled the data by looking at 1,800 models, said new lighting developments were largely responsible: "The main thing that's driving it is the LED technology to backlight the TV." "
So-called 'LED TVs', which use light-emitting diodes only began to appear in significant numbers around 2009, despite the technology debuting in a Sony TV five years earlier. As well as using less energy, the sets are thinner and are becoming increasingly popular with buyers, accounting for as much of a fifth of LCD TV sales according to some reports.
The research also shows that modern flat-screens now use less energy than the boxy TVs they were initially criticised for replacing. A new 32-inch LED TV uses about 75% less energy than a 32-inch cathode ray tube, costing £8 a year to run rather than £32.
Lammas also predicted that mandatory energy labels for TVs due to be introduced in December would lead to the decline of plasma-based screens, which use more energy. "Plasmas still use a hell of a lot of power. I think they [the consumer electronics companies] will start phasing them out soon. As soon as energy labels come in, people will see how much energy they actually use."
Which? magazine editor Martyn Hocking, said the figures tallied with its own research. "Flat-screen TVs are significantly more energy efficient these days. 40 inch TV's would often use up to 300 watts three years ago, but some now use as little as 70 watts. We're seeing similar results with other white goods, such as fridges, freezers and washing machines."
A spokesman with the government's Energy Saving Trust said energy consumption from TVs was expected to drop "considerably" with the increased take-up of LED TVs.