Is your TV Wasting Electricity?

Dave's Column - Televisions on Standby. In 2005 TVs were by far the biggest energy wasters in the average Aussie household*. Simple measures to stop the drain.

Phantom Loads

First we need to learn about phantom loads. This is power usage while the device is on some form of 'standby' or even when supposedly turned off. This power usage can add up to as much as 10% of your power usage**, however thanks to public & government pressure this power waste is being lessened on new appliances. Determine your standby power consumption with an energy meter to find out exactly.

Standby power is often used to run a clock, keep LED indicators lit up and the appliance able to be turned on by a remote. Unless you need the clock function to record a program or bake a loaf of bread when you are not home, I suggest you switch off devices 'at the wall' or power point. Get yourself a 'power board' with a single switch to turn off all your TV or computer peripherals at once. This will not only save power but in most cases it will prevent damage from power surges & brownouts (from lightning and other faults).

Energy Efficient TVs

There are several types of TV on the market - the older power hungry box type CRT; larger Plasma and LCD. The newest LED/LCD type are the most energy efficient. New ones all have a Star Label indicating how many kWh/year they would use if turned on 10 hours a day and left on Standby the rest of the time. Divide by 365 and then by 10 to get average usage per hour (while running but otherwise on standby). This figure is likely to be less than the wattage listed in the manual or on the compliance label which is a maximum continuous figure. Most TVs currently on sale only use one watt or less on standby. Older ones could use several watts or more.

Size Matters

Don't buy a TV larger than you comfortably need for your room size - eg 40' is recommended if you will be seated 3 metres away. Large TVs generate a lot of heat which can be a bonus in winter but a real bummer in summer! You can save a lot of power if you are prepared to watch on a small TV on your desk!

Brightness Setting

You can save up to 30% of power by turning down the brightness setting on your TV - do this during the day and reduce it until you still have a good picture. The default setting tends to be very bright so they still look good in a very well lit show room. It will also be easier on your eyes!


Peripherals like a DVD, 5:1 surround sound, PVR and Austar decoder all have phantom loads. Austar box is outrageous and uses about 20 watts whether it is on (fair enough) or on standby! I plug all my peripherals into the one power board & switch the lot off at once. Austar takes about 1.5 minutes to 'fire up' (MyStar recordings & settings are kept when switched off).

If you are on solar, phantom standby loads will use even more power as it will keep your inverter on run mode and at the lower end of its efficiency range.


* View a Standby Energy Consumption Chart from 2005. Please note that the annual cost is based on $0.14¢/kWh which has more than doubled by now.

** The 10% rule of thumb is a bit of a myth. Read this short analysis for further details.

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