Greenest Choices for Digital TV

With U.S. television programming going digital on Feb. 17, you have two choices: Replace your analogue television entirely or buy a digital converter so you can continue to use the old set. Which option will use less energy–an old, analogue tube TV plus a converter, or a brand new digital set?

It’s a close call. A digital converter, which will allow you to continue to use your quaint, old, rabbit-eared set after stations permanently stop broadcasting in analogue, would use very little energy. So little energy, in fact, that it’s not really even worth factoring into the equation. That means that the energy picture in this scenario really boils down to which television is most efficient, says Noah Horowitz, senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In general, if you compare similarly-sized models, tube sets (also called cathode ray tube sets or CRTs) use considerably less energy than do plasma screen sets, but a little bit more energy than do LCD-screen sets. So if electricity use is your top concern, the first thing to do is pass on plasma. As for buying a new digital tube set, the new model would probably use about the same amount of energy as the old set, so that’s not an ideal option either, especially if you take into account the energy required to both produce that new set and dispose of the old one properly.

That leaves you looking at a new LCD set, which would actually be a little more efficient than your old set, if you went with an Energy Star model, and resisted the urge to upgrade on size.

The last thing to consider is that next year’s sets are expected to be considerably more energy efficient than the ones you see on the market today. So if you really want cut a few Cs when it comes to your TV habit, your best option might even be to get the converter box for now, and wait a year or two to consider any further upgrades. Who knows, by then there may actually be a few more shows worth watching on the networks, too.

Plenty is an environmental media company dedicated to exploring and giving voice to the green revolution that will define the 21st Century. Click here to subscribe to Plenty.

By Sarah Schmidt, Plenty magazine


Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Laura Ferlitto
Laura Ferlitto7 years ago

great info thanks

David Jones
David Jones7 years ago

Interesting, thanks!

Teresa P.
Teresa P7 years ago

Thanks for the information

Mervi R.
Mervi R7 years ago

Interesting, thanks!

abby l.
abby l7 years ago

I almost never watch TV, and I never intend to buy a tv again.

Dianne D.
Dianne D8 years ago

Good to know that my analog TV is still efficient. Don't watch that much TV, so I have no use for a digital TV.

Eliza D.
Past Member 8 years ago

But has anyone tried there boxes yet I have and found out that being over 40 miles away from any transmitter I will not get any TV stations ( sucks ) so I guess when they switch I'm SOL I guess I will watch TV until that day. Being disabled and very little money coming in I wont have TV very much longer
buy cartucho r4i

Gloria Wood
Gloria Wood9 years ago

I find it very ironic that with my digital converter I was able to get two PBS channels until the conversion on 2/17. Now I get none!! So I can choose to pay for publicly supported television through cable, grrrrr or rent DVD's from my (for now at least)free public library. I agree with Neahle, it's just one big commercial noise anyway. Is anyone old enough to remember the promise that Pay-TV would be commercial-free? Now most households consider it a necessity, spending thousands of dollars for companies to blare advertising at them 24/7. I regret to see that even "public" broadcasting is now sponsored by corporations instead of individuals. Maybe our economy wouldn't be so vulnerable if it didn't rely heavily on "consumers" being duped into thinking they need to buy buy buy, whether they have the actual means or rely on overextended plastic.

David Y.
David Y9 years ago

It is not a toss up--discarding a perfectly good TV is not green. An inexpensive digital converter is the way to go for anyone using an antenna. Plus, anyone on cable or satellite already is converted. The national digital conversion has been delayed until June. David--Recycling Issue Coord, NJ Sierra