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I changed these 5 TV settings to lower my electric bill. Here's why they work

The latest television models are more energy-efficient than ever. Here's how to prevent your TV from using more power than it needs to.
Written by Chris Bayer, Editor
85-inch Sony X95L television
Adam Breeden/ZDNET

Did you know that a modern TV uses significantly less energy than a TV that's a decade old? Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, considering how much more power-efficient today's display panels are. According to Perch Energy, the average power consumption of an old TV runs around $54 per year in energy costs. Because LED-backlit TVs and OLEDs consume less power than traditional LCD screens, newer models cost about $32 annually. 

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In large part, the bigger your screen size, the more power your TV requires. But there are ways to attenuate your TV's power consumption every time you turn it on. Here are some settings you can change to save more money on your next electricity bill. Even if it's just tens of dollars that you're ultimately saving, it's still a little less money coming out of your pocket, and that's the goal.

What are EnergyGuide ratings?

First, if you're thinking of buying a new TV, start with the most fundamental source of information: the EnergyGuide label and the ENERGY STAR rating. Each TV on a showroom floor will display these labels. This information from manufacturers provides a reliable metric for comparing efficiency among TV sets. 

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Ratings range from A to G, with an A rating being the highest and most energy-efficient. However, it is rare to find a TV with an A rating. For a smart TV, a rating of D or E is considered highly efficient. New TVs certified by ENERGY STAR must have comparable features and be 25% more energy-efficient than competitors. While many energy-efficient televisions may cost more upfront, you'll quickly recover the difference in price through energy savings.

But what about your current TV settings? There are a few you can tweak for better results.

1. Lower your brightness

Brightness on any television is a tricky variable. It can enhance your viewing experience, but sometimes too much brightness isn't worth the money. Over-brightness can distort clarity and contrast, and it also costs extra pennies. Some newer TVs have sensors that detect ambient light -- automatic brightness control (ABC) -- and automatically adjust the brightness.

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On your TV, look for an Eco mode or Movie mode. Select one of these for optimal energy efficiency and a realistic viewing experience. In the end, you might do both your eyes and your checkbook a favor by reducing brightness.

2. Set a sleep timer

I know it's not ideal sleep hygiene, but I confess that I enjoy going to bed with my TV on. I luxuriate in drifting off, bathed in its comforting glow. This is also senseless, I know, in terms of being economical. So, I set a sleep timer on my Samsung. When the TV detects no activity for two hours, it automatically turns off. This is similar to Standby mode, which you also can enable to power down your set after a predetermined period of no interaction.

3. Turn off your screen when streaming music

Ever listen to Spotify or one of the music channels included in your cable package? If you're listening to music through your TV, you don't really need the visuals. Many TVs have a special setting that allows you to turn off the screen entirely, but you can also lower the brightness if that option isn't available.  

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The same goes for using your TV simply for background noise. If you're not actually watching the screen, you can save some money by turning off the lumens and focusing on the volume.

4. Power down completely

New TV sets use about 55 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year. For comparison, a refrigerator uses an average of 550 kWh per year -- but your refrigerator lacks the luxury of shutting down for a rest. Even when you turn off your TV with the remote, it tends to go into Standby mode, continuing to use about 0.4 watts. To really limit your TV's power consumption, I suggest plugging it and any peripherals into a power strip, so you can swiftly switch everything on and off.

5. A note on picture quality and power

If you're looking to significantly reduce energy usage, an OLED TV is an excellent choice due to its advanced pixel technology. OLED TVs feature pixels that emit their own light and can turn on and off individually. This precise control allows for deeper blacks, higher contrast, and lower overall power consumption. By turning off individual pixels when displaying dark scenes, OLED TVs consume less power compared to traditional LCDs, which require a backlight that's always on.

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As mentioned earlier, if you're in the market for a TV, I recommend an OLED model with an EnergyGuide rating of D that's ENERGY STAR certified. However, it's important to note that higher resolutions mean more pixels, which can result in greater energy consumption. A 4K screen has 8.29 million pixels, four times more than a 1080p screen, requiring four times the energy.

Before making a decision, consider your viewing habits. Many streaming services still offer content in 720p or 1080p. Assess how frequently you watch 4K content to determine if the higher energy consumption of a 4K TV is justified for your needs.


Do newer TVs use less electricity?

Yes, generally. With advancing technology, newer TVs tend to be more energy efficient. LED-backlit TVs use a fraction of the electricity that older LCD screens consume, and OLED technology offers even greater efficiency.

What's the most energy-efficient type of TV?

OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs are currently considered the most energy-efficient option. They offer brighter, thinner, and more efficient screens than other technologies.

How much can I save by using energy-saving features?

TVs with energy-saving features consume significantly less power. ENERGY STAR-certified TVs are, on average, at least 25% more energy efficient than conventional models.

Does screen size affect power consumption?

Yes, larger screens typically consume more power. The good news is that the impact of size on energy consumption has decreased with newer technologies.

Should I replace my old TV with a new, more efficient model?

If your current TV is ancient, you can always buy a replacement that could result in energy savings -- although you might consider the environmental impact of disposing of your old TV and manufacturing a new one. If your current TV still has a good picture, I suggest trying some of these energy-saving practices first.

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