Before buying a plug-in electricity monitor (the Energenie Power Meter) I have to admit being dubious about how much I could learn from checking the electricity consumption of appliances and gadgets around the home. After all, I thought, you can simply check the wattage on the label or read up on other people’s experience using these devices. And with my environmental concerns I have always been keen to minimise my possessions, electrical goods especially.
But I bought the Energenie Power Meter mainly because I had question marks over some of the appliances in my home, especially those that have different setting levels.
My first test was on a 18 month old 37inch Samsung LCD TV. Ok so a large flat screen TV is not necessarily an environmentally sound choice but I chose the model for the maximum wattage of 140 watts compared to over 200 watts for some models (and much more for some of those older plasma screens). On standby, despite a red light showing at the bottom of the TV, it was registering 0.0 watts – very impressive when you hear about the stand-by consumption of some appliances. After turning it on, the power surged up to 60 to 70watts before settling down at a consistent 45 watts. That was certainly a pleasant surprise – I had expected well over 100 watts.
Being a keen energy saver I had already set the TV to one of its built-in energy-saving settings. So I thought I’d check what, if any, different it made changing the setting. I found the energy saving mode was set to ‘medium’, with other options of ‘low’, ‘high’ and ‘auto’. On high I was amazed that the TV was taking in just 30 watts of electricity but I have to admit not being able to live with the gloomier picture. ‘Low’ drew in just over 50 watts and ‘Auto’ (which certainly doesn’t sound like the worst) was using around 65 watts. I certainly felt content with the ‘medium’ setting and 45 watts felt like reasonably frugal energy use.
I also looked at the difference made by changing other settings. Colour, brightness and picture type made little difference but the ‘mode’ was quite astounding. My TV has been set to ‘movie’ setting since it was bought (I’m not sure about anyone else but it’s just not one of those things I think of changing…). It turns out it is the most energy efficient. The power consumption of the ‘dynamic’ was around 60 watts but combining ‘dynamic’ with ‘auto’ energy saving threw the power reading all over the scale, from a low of around 85 to a high of over 130 watts depending on the images on screen*
So by changing a few of the settings I was able to change the electricity usage of the TV from around 30 to 130 watts, the difference of 10 energy saving lightbulbs. The average person watches over 4 hours of TV per day (source: BARB, 2010) and at a typical 13.2p per unit this works out at a difference of over £19 in the electricity running costs per year. And this is a very conservative calculation as in the average household, with a number of potential viewers, the main TV will be switched on for much longer. All in all the message has to be to use a device like the Energenie Power Meter to check the power consumption of the various settings on your TV and make sure you’re not wasting a large amount of energy or money.
So I now own another gadget but I already know this one will pay for itself many times over, both financially and environmentally.
*Before you ask, I couldn’t see much of an improvement in the quality of the picture. In fact the colours were quite garish. Huw Edwards, the BBC newsreader, was on screen looking as if he had applied one too many layers of fake tan!