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TVs are electricity guzzlers – but you need to see the bigger picture

TV on stand in the corner of the room

On-demand television has changed the way we watch our favourite programmes. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the amount of electricity we use to power TVs, including set-top boxes and DVD/Blu-ray players, is falling.

Only a few years ago, they accounted for 50% of the electricity consumption of our domestic consumer electronics – now the figure is around 33%. That’s still significantly more than the 21% that can be accounted for from our home computing systems, which means considering energy efficiency when purchasing a new TV is still something well worth doing.

No need to compromise

The average new 40'' TV costs around £28 to run each year. An energy efficient A+ rated 40'' TV typically costs £8 to run each year. That’s £138 over the lifetime of the product – a very healthy saving.

There’s no need to miss out on features, either. You can get 3D, full HD TVs that still have a high energy efficiency rating. The ratings are shown in-store and on the packaging, D to A+++. Eco-start up functions are a common feature of modern TVs, too – but it’s important to make sure these have been set up, and that you don’t switch them off, otherwise your TV could use much more energy than it states on the energy label.

Television sizes have been increasing in recent years, but this is not necessarily a cause for too much concern. Although it takes more energy to power a larger television, a large energy efficient television can use less energy, and cost less to run, than a smaller less efficient one.

Putting TV electricity use in perspective

Consumer electronics: Top 5 electricity guzzlers in the home

 

 

 

  1. Televisions - 2%

 

TVs still take the top spot in terms of energy consumption when it comes to home electronics - using up 50% of the total amount we use on all electronic devices.

 

However, while this might seem like a lot, it's important to note that consumer electronics only represent 4% of what’s used in a home. You could argue that our thirst for electronic gadgetry is more of a sustainability concern in the light of the materials required to make them and methods of disposal than simply as electricity users. 

 

2. Set-top boxes - 1%

 

While some TVs have integral connections to digital TV platforms, many of us still use set-top boxes, which tot up an additional 1% of average home electricity use.

 

Remember to turn your set-top box off at the wall when it's not in use to save more energy (unless you want to record something while you're out!)

 

3. Games consoles - 1%

 

According to BARB figures, over 28 million UK households use games consoles connected to a TV set. That's not counting all the handheld games that people play too.

 

While not the biggest users of electricity, games consoles still use 1% of the total electricity in the average home.

 

4. Power supplies - 1%

 

Charging our electronic devices and gadgets uses around 1% of the total household electricity use in the average household. The more gadgets you charge, the more you're using.

 

Remember you don't need to charge everything to 100% all the time. Most devices have a longer lifespan if you keep the batteries at around 50% charged.

 

5. Computing (laptops / desktops) - <1%

 

You may be surprised to hear that your computing activity, whether it's on a laptop or a desktop consumes less than 1% of your total household's electricity. Our computers have developed to the point where they use comparatively little energy compared to their processing power.

 

Of course, the exponential growth in internet traffic and the servers it requires all has to be powered somehow. You can find out more in our article about how to be energy efficient online.

 

Overall top 5 domestic electricity users, by appliance/device type

It’s important to note that while TVs do represent half of consumer electronics electricity use, consumer electronics only represent 4% of what’s used in a home. The electricity required to power TVs, top boxes, games consoles and DVD players is dwarfed by white goods: fridges and freezers in particular. These draw heavily on the grid, and by their very nature need to be on all the time. It’s no wonder they’re far ahead of the rest when it comes to home electricity use.

 

 

 

Which are the biggest users of electricity in your home - well, we know it's not your TV...

 

1. Cold appliances - 63%

 

Fridges and freezers are by far the highest users of electricity of all the appliances in your home. Why? Well, they need to stay on all the time, so they're continually drawing power to maintain a constant temperature.

 

The more products they contain the harder they have to work to stay cool, so you can save energy by not overloading them (or leaving the door open however refreshing it might feel).

 

2. Wet appliances - 10%

 

Washing machines, dishwashers - anything that uses water is known as a wet appliance. Although using nowhere near as much energy as a freezer, they still come in at number two on our list as the power needed to heat the water they use pushes up consumption.

 

Actively choosing to wash clothes at a lower temperature can help reduce your energy consumption. We've got more tips in our blog on being energy efficient when using your washing machine.

 

3. Cooking - 7%

 

Whether you cook like a Michelin-starred chef or are a devotee of microwave meals, heating your food takes up on average 7% of your energy use from appliances.

 

Did you know it's more energy efficient, not to mention more sociable, to cook for more than one person at a time? You can check out more tips in our blog on being energy efficient in the kitchen.

 

4. Lighting - 6%

 

Lighting takes up around 6% of the total electricity use in the average home. But you can reduce the amount of energy you use by replacing halogen bulbs with LEDs.

 

LEDs come in a range of shades from cool to warm, allowing you to create the lighting effect that you want for your home. Changing over to LEDs could save you around £30 a year on your electricity bill.

 

5. Consumer electronics - 4%

 

As previously mentioned, consumer electronics contributes a relatively small 4% to your overall electricity consumption. But every little helps, so it's still worth turning your devices off standby where possible.

 

Applied energy-saving

So, what to do with this information? Well, if you’re looking to contribute to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security and lower your bills at the same time, there are a number of actions you can take. You can:

  • don’t overload your fridge and freezer as this reduces the energy they use
  • wash at 30°C to use around 57% less electricity than at higher temperatures
  • replace all your home’s halogen downlighters with LEDs to save around £30 a year.

There are options to make your connected world that little bit more conscious too.

You can:

  • turn off Wi-Fi at night to save £3 a year
  • switch off smart home appliances at the wall, if possible
  • don’t constantly charge phones and other devices up to 100% - most have a longer lifespan if their batteries are kept around half charged
  • when you upgrade gadgets, consider their overall sustainability and make sure they’re properly recycled, so valuable materials can go back into creating the technologies of tomorrow rather than needing to be dug out of the ground.  

Keeping the heat on main area of energy use

Of course, home energy use is not simply about electricity, or just appliances and gadgets either. The majority of home energy use – around 80% in fact - comes from space heating and hot water. Using a lot of energy tends to mean a lot of potential for savings, and there are steps you can take to do just that – starting with understanding your heating system. The most cost-efficient changes to reduce heating costs include:

  • installing more insulation wherever possible,
  • fitting better controls and
  • using chemical inhibitors to ensure your central heating system is operating efficiently.

If you’ve got an old system, it could be time for a change – maybe even to a form of renewable heating. This is, of course, a larger undertaking – but one with repeated savings for years to come.

Homes are multi-faceted energy consumers – but perhaps TVs aren’t quite the terrors they once were. While it’s certainly worth keeping on top of what your entertainment and communications technology is contributing to your bills and emissions, some of the biggest potential savings can still be achieved where the less flashy devices are concerned: washers, fridges and boilers.

There are ways to use less energy available in almost every home - by engaged behaviour and sensible purchasing power, it is possible to get the same or better performance for less.

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Gary Hartley's picture
Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.