New Energy Star Requirements for TVs May Take Effect Sooner

According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) team leader and Energy Star product-developer Katharine Kaplan, since so many televisions available for sale in the U.S. already meet the requirements for the current version of Energy Star for TVs, the EPA is considering moving up the May 2012 compliance date for version, 5.1. "With an eye toward highlighting the most efficient models for consumers and retaining the relevancy of the Energy Star mark, in the coming weeks we will propose an earlier effective date for the 5.1 requirements," she says. How much earlier the next version would supercede 4.1 is not clear, however, and would depend on a number of factors as well as a thorough review by the EPA.

Another important change coming to the Energy Star program is that as of January 1, 2011, all products will need to be third-party certified in order to bear the Energy Star label. Up until now, manufacturers have self-tested products according to Energy Star guidelines, which has caused some criticism of the project.

Energy Star, a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, was introduced in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products. Computers and monitors were tested and labeled first, but consumers now most strongly associate Energy Star with major household appliances. The specifications differ for each product category.

As mentioned above, companies have in the past tested their own products. The Department of Energy has, however, performed spot checks on appliances, and some products have been removed from the qualified list as a result. In January 2010, based on the results of DOE testing, the EPA disqualified 21 refrigerator models under two brand names. (The EPA notes that these represented less than 5% of all qualified refrigerators.) The manufacturer entered into a corrective action plan with the EPA that required it to remove the Energy Star label from the units and to provide a consumer hotline for the affected models.

Energy Star literature states that a market share of 50% or higher for qualified products in a particular category will prompt consideration for a revision. Other factors that might signal a revision include:

• A change in the Federal minimum efficiency standards.

• Technological changes with advances in energy efficiency which allow a revised Energy Star specification to capture additional savings.

• Product availability.

• Significant issues with consumers realizing expected energy savings.

• Performance or quality issues.

• Issues with test procedures.1

The EPA is reworking its revision schedule, however, with an eye to differentiating "short-lived" products from longer-lived ones.

Televisions began qualifying for Energy Star in 1998. Qualified TVs must now consume 1 W or less in standby mode. On-mode power requirements vary according to screen size (actually a two-dimensional total viewing area) and whether the unit is low, high, or full high definition. External power supplies (EPSs) packaged with TV products must also meet all Energy Star requirements for EPS devices.2

Version 4.1 went into effect on May 1, 2010. The biggest change that comes with Version 5.1 is that the maximum on-mode power consumption in watts gets reduced by about 32%, depending on screen size. Maximum allowable energy in download acquisition mode has also decreased, from 0.08 to 0.02 kWh/day. Another potentially challenging aspect of 5.1 is that although TV sets larger than 50 in. on the diagonal may still qualify for Energy Star, they must meet the on-mode requirement for 50-in. models, regardless of size. For more, details on the current and future criteria for TVs, visit

Although it is too early to predict the extent to which an early implementation of Energy Star 5.1 would affect television makers, some industry experts say the effect of changing the date for at least this particular set of requirements would probably be less onerous than might be imagined. Many manufacturers are already in compliance or close to compliance with 5.1, or other stricter requirements, noted DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gray in a September 2010 blog entry: "A look at the Energy Star data for the latest sets shows how close TV sets already are to meeting future energy consumption requirements, such as the California Energy Commission requirements set to go into effect in 2011." 3

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– Jenny Donelan


Glasses-Free 3-D Products on the Horizon

The big news from the CEATEC show in Japan last month (October 2010) was Toshiba's unveiling of autostereoscopic TVs. Two models, a 12- and a 20-in. version, are scheduled for December 2010 distribution in the Japanese market only, at prices equivalent to US$1500 and 3000. Reporters' reactions were mixed – the TVs have a "sweet spot," requiring the viewer to sit close to the center of the display – but the sets were by all reports the biggest draw at the show. Another glasses-free 3-D product that is generating a lot of excitement is the Nintendo 3DS, announced by the company earlier this year. Prototype units are reported to be just slightly larger than the current DS version, and early reports of the viewing experience are mainly favorable. A 2011 launch is rumored.

– Jenny Donelan