November 22, 2005 12:01 PM PST
Energy hogs in your living room
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In addition to higher electricity bills, energy-wasting electronics have a direct impact on the environment. After all, the average home is responsible for twice as much greenhouse gas as the average car, according to the EPA. In the U.S., power plants are responsible for 63 percent of all sulfur dioxide emissions and nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, the agency said.
"There's no smoke coming out of your TV when you turn it on," Durrett said. "So you have to think in terms of how that energy is made and how it gets to your home."
Energy Star push
Through its voluntary Energy Star labeling program, the EPA is hoping to encourage high-tech manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of high-tech devices. On the power adapter front, the agency introduced Energy Star specifications earlier this year and has been working with cell phone manufacturers to implement them.
Samsung will be the first to sell handsets with Energy Star-qualified power adapters, EPA's Durrett said. Consumers should to see them arrive within the next few months, the agency said.
If every power adapter were 90 percent efficient, which the EPA said is possible, consumers could collectively save more than 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year. The energy savings would prevent more than 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emission, equivalent to the average emissions of 700,000 cars, the agency said.
The EPA has also updated its Energy Star specification for computer monitors to address energy consumption while the machines are on. The previous specification deals mainly with sleep and off modes. Monitors sporting the new Energy Star label should start appearing early next year.
The agency is also working on an Energy Star specification for TVs that deals with the power consumed when the machines are on. The current TV specification only takes into account the power used in off-mode, which represents just 10 percent of TV energy use, according to NRDC data.
But the TV on-mode specification won't be ready for at least another two years, Durrett said. One big hurdle is coming up with a measurement method that manufacturers can agree on. The U.S. Department of Energy hasn't updated its method in nearly 30 years, so right now, it only applies to black-and-while TVs.
The NRDC is pressing for quicker action. "The time to act is now, before the sales of big-screen TVs take off due to price reductions," NRDC's Horowitz said. "If progress is not made soon, we will be stuck with a generation of energy-hogging big-screen TVs in people's homes for the next 10 years or so."
The group estimates that reducing active-mode energy consumption in TVs by 25 percent could save the U.S. more than 10 billion kilowatt hours a year, enough energy to power the state of Delaware for a year.
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