While you’re at work all day dreaming of binging on your new favorite streaming show, your TV is sitting there burning up electricity waiting for you to come home. Here’s how to figure out how much it’s wasting.
Why Does My TV Use Power When I’m Not Watching?
Unlike many other electric devices around your home like, say, a lamp or a window fan, your TV doesn’t have a true on/off state toggled by a switch.
Instead, your TV, and many other similar electronics like cable boxes or video game consoles, has a standby mode.
At the bare minimum, your TV needs to maintain a “phantom load” of enough power to ensure it can respond to the remote and maintain basic functionality.
On the more demanding end of the scale, your TV might consume more power to maintain a network connection for on-demand casting or other smart TV functions like ensuring an always-on voice assistant can respond to you.
What’s particularly ironic is that smart TVs have ensured that TVs maintain their status as energy vampires. In the past, TVs used power to keep the large tube in the set warmed up and ready to go so you didn’t have to sit around waiting for the tube to warm up. Even though the tube element of televisions is long gone, the advent of advanced flat-screen TVs with smart features brought TV vampire energy into the 21st century.
How Much Standby Power Does My TV Use?
The most accurate way to determine how much standby power your TV uses is to measure it yourself. In our experience, manufacturers seem to play a bit loose with their power estimations—it certainly seems like the data they provide is under the most optimal conditions with every power-consuming feature disabled.
P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt
From TV to your fridge, you can use this handy little meter to measure how much energy your devices and appliances use.
If you’re really curious, we recommend getting a Kill a Watt meter and following the instructions in our guide to measuring your home energy use.
Broadly speaking, the only thing we can say with authority is that your TV uses some power when plugged in. We measured multiple TVs and found that standby power consumption ranged from as low as a few watts up to around 20W. The average smart TV standby power draw was around 14W.
Our findings align with data from The National Resources Defense Council and their collaboration with The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, where the televisions they measured averaged around 12.5W of standby power consumption.
The range they found, however, was quite broad. While some sets used 20W in standby power, the newest sets with properly optimized “smart standby” functions consumed as little as 0.2W in standby mode. That’s a pretty substantial difference.
Assuming your TV sits idle for 20 hours a day and your power costs 12 cents per kWh, the TV with the 20W idle would cost you $17.52 per year, and the TV with the 0.2W idle would cost you a mere $0.18 per year—less than a quarter.
So while we won’t recommend running out to buy a brand new TV strictly to save on standby power, especially if you really like your current TV, it’s worth looking into the standby power stats on the next set you purchase. On average, people own their televisions for 5-7 years, so a set with improved power usage could save you around $100 over the set’s life.
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