Category Archives: appliances

Buying a Flat-screen TV for Christmas? Some Options

If everybody replaces their old TVs with plasma screens, will we have to import more energy from hostile dictatorships, build more hydro-electric dams and new nuclear power stations? The short answer is: Yes.

According to a report done by the UK’s Energy Savings Trust (a non-profit organization, funded both by government and the private sector), household appliances currently account for about one third of a household’s energy . In the organization’s report The Ampere Strikes Back, the trend toward flat-screen TVs means at least a tripling of energy used to power TVs.


Here are three pieces from the British press on the topic of flat-screen TVs (both plasma and LCD) and energy use:,,1843587,00.html

Australia is also having concerns about this new TV technology in its current wasteful form.

Some flat-screenTVs are less bad than others…

CNET has compared a range of models with all the data here.
: An old-fashioned (CRT) TV uses on average about 100 Watts.

The winners are:

Fewest Watts consumed (eg: least energy consuming)
Sharp LC-32D43U (Type: 32″LCD)
144.11 (Total Watts)
$44.41 (Yearly Cost)

Sharp is apparently a leader in greener TVs.

Most efficient (LCD)

Sony KDL-46S3000
46-inch LCD
202.58 (Total Watts)
$61.83 (Yearly Cost)

Most efficient (Rear Projection)
Samsung HL-T5687S
56-inch rear-projection
154.78 (Total Watts)
$47.45 (Yearly Cost)

Most efficient (Plasma)
Vizio P42HDTV- (Type: 42″ plasma)
42-inch plasma
188.26 (Total Watts)
$58.70 (Yearly Cost)

Note: Yearly cost assumes that the TV is on for 8 hours/day and that the average price of energy in the U.S. during 2006, is 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour, according to information from the Energy Information Administration


Other measures you can take to minimize your energy draw

1. Avoid using the TV as background noise. Use your radio or your laptop instead. (Note: A surprising trend from the British report revealed that over 40% of people are listening to radio through their TVs. Bad idea).

2. Turn down the LCD’s backlight

3. Turn on the power-saver mode

4. Change the settings on the TV

5. Control room lighting

6. Own fewer TVs

7. Do something else!

Source: CNET

8. Make your own energy by hooking it up to a bike-generator.


9. Compensate for your CO2 emissions by doing a little carbon offsetting. You can calculate the emissions of your chosen TV and purchase ‘offsets’ that fund alternative energy generation like wind farm projects in your country. Here’s a little intro on the topic from the beloved Canadian environmentalist and biologist David Suzuki.


Can Exercise and Watching TV be Combined? Exercise and Computers?

Yes. It can be done….and I don’t mean exercise bikes!

This way: No exercise = no power = no TV.

Here is a link to the specs for the bike-powered TV. It even includes videos! The guy who made the site is in his early fifties so you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to do it. This is such an obviously cool invention that screen-centric kids will find it intriguing to build and maybe even use it. Be the first in your neighbourhood. Say goodbye to childhood obesity! Say farewell to scheduling workouts into your day!


Science and Math teachers looking for environmental science projects will find a detailed lesson plan on that site just for you. See the link at the bottom of this page:

What about running my desktop on pedal power?

If you are thinking that your desktop monitor is a lot like a TV, you are right. You would probably have trouble reading and using the mouse while pedaling but you can pedal to store energy in ultracapacitors for later use in your home office. At least that way, seat-time can be ‘earned’ or (more positively put) you can give yourself a break from sitting all day. If you think there is a possibility that you could sneak this contraption into your office cubicle, it is worth experimenting with Butcher’s notes. See his photos of the ‘homeless home office’ here:

What about my laptop?

Yes, definitely doable because laptops require a lot less energy than desktops. If you are more interested in the taking your laptop off-the-grid idea than in the fitness thing, you may be interested in solar power cells for recharging your laptop battery. Be warned: Solar cells for laptops exist but they are not cheap (yet). See:

Sierra Solar Systems: – US$250 and up

Gaiam: – closer to US$170 – factors to consider and links to products.

Low-tech air conditioning/cool tutorial for the mathphobes

Though we are sliding into heating season, it is never too late to talk about air conditioners. If you want to avoid buying one for the two weeks that it is intolerably hot in the summer or you just like to experiment, here is another option. Make your own!

Better yet, use it as a project for the kids in your life to show how math and physics are great tools for creative people.

Homemade AC

Here’s the background on one Engineering student’s cool project, complete with specs:

Lifehacker’s take on the project has some very interesting comments: