The average United States adult spends five hours and four minutes watching television per day. This puts television watching right up there with bathing and driving as activities we do consistently that use energy.
The good news is that most modern TVs are far more energy-efficient than any generation before them. However, if you are looking for a TV that combines excellent quality with innovative energy-saving features, there are a few standouts on the market.
If you’re in a rush we think the TCL 55″ Class 5-Series 4K UHD Smart TV is the best option for most people looking for an energy efficient TV with modern specs.
The top five best energy efficient TVs
If you’re looking for an energy-efficient TV without compromising on quality, and don’t want to trawl through a million unhelpful reviews, then we have great news!
We’ve gone ahead and done the legwork for you, tracking down two excellent all-rounder options and a few more specific models that are a great green solution to common problems.
1. Best Overall – TCL 55″ Class 5-Series 4K UHD Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart TV
The first of our energy-efficient all-rounders is the TCL Class 5-Series, and it’s a great choice if you’re into greener streaming and gaming.
The Class 5 comes in four sizes; 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch, and 65-inch, so there’s bound to be a size to fit your living space. The built-in Roku TV gives you access to around 500,000 movies and TV episodes across thousands of streaming channels.
The inbuilt voice controls work with either the Roku app and popular personal assistants, like Alexa and Google Home, or voice-enabled remotes.
The Class 5 uses a proprietary iPQ Engine paired with excellent 4K UHD picture quality and Dolby Vision HDR for some really crisp colors and deep blacks. Despite the superb picture quality, the Class 5 expends the same watts per inch of screen size as most standard HD TV and far fewer than most 4K models.
For the carbon-footprint conscious gamer, the Class 5 is an excellent choice because of its auto game mode. The TV automatically detects that you’re using a games console and engages game mode, selecting the most effective picture settings.
It also comes with a headphone jack, which many modern TVs don’t, for those late-night gaming sessions.
What we like:
- 4K resolution for the same power usage as standard HD.
- Excellent range of sizes.
- Built-in Roku app and personal assistant enabled.
- A dedicated gaming mode.
What we don’t like:
- The outer bezel is quite chunky.
The TCL Class 5-Series delivers 4K picture quality without the associated energy costs. The built-in ROKU means you don’t need another device to stream and the automatic gaming mode is great for carbon-conscious gamers.
If you’re not really interested in gaming but still want a sharp picture with excellent color contrast and deep blacks, then Samsung’s QLED technology is a great choice.
Quantum dot light-emitting diode, or QLED, is Samsung’s answer to getting the best out of their less expensive screens by using something other than the standard white LEDs with color filters over the pixels.
QLED technology allows LED TVs to provide the richness of color associated with far more power-hungry plasma screens.
In addition to great screen resolution, the Q60T Series also features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Google Assistant, and Alexa functionality. There are also three HDMI ports and two USBs to connect the rest of your home entertainment system to.
What we like:
- The use of QLED tech to get better picture quality without the energy demands of plasma.
- The Google Assistant and Alexa enabled voice commands.
What we don’t like:
- The plastic feet feel a little cheap and unstable.
If you want excellent picture quality but aren’t interested in a power hungry plasma screen, then Samsung’s QLED technology is a great choice. The Q60T Series provides rich colours and deep blacks using only energy-efficient LEDs.
3. Best small eco-friendly TV – SAMSUNG 32″ Class FRAME QLED
While the 80-inch living room dominator has become the gold standard of most modern entertainment setups, there are plenty of reasons that you might want a smaller TV.
You might be looking for a TV for a smaller space, like an RV or a home office. You might have heard that a smaller TV is more energy-efficient, which is true and something we’ll cover in more detail later.
Alternatively, you might simply not want a television of such magnitude that it’s the focal point of your home.
The Samsung Frame QLED is an excellent choice for a smaller TV that doesn’t compromise on picture quality. It uses the QLED tech from its big brother, the Q60T, to give you bright colors without appearing washed out.
It also features full voice control when linked to an Alexa device.
As a FRAME TV, this model is specifically designed to look like a framed painting and, when put on standby, turns on a screen saver to mimic your favorite artworks. You can build up your library of artwork from the built-in art store, and even the style of frame is customizable.
What we like:
- The FRAME option is a great way to stop your TV from dominating the room.
- QLED tech gives you more saturated colors, even on a smaller screen.
What we don’t like:
- The art store’s custom bezels and pictures are all an additional cost.
The FRAME QLED provides all the picture quality of the Q60T but with a much more unobtrusive design. If you’re looking for an energy efficient TV for a smaller room, or just one that isn’t the dominant feature, the FRAME is a great choice.
4. Best 1080P energy-efficient TV if you don’t need 4K – VIZIO D40-D1 D-Series 40″
There are many confusing acronyms thrown around when it comes to high definition TVs. Do you need 4K, UHD, FHD,1080p…?
Essentially, what this jumble of letters and numbers refers to is the resolution of your television’s screen. The resolution relates to the number of pixels, tiny dots of light, that compose the picture.
4K, which is often used interchangeably with Ultra High Definition (UHD), normally means the screen has around 8 million pixels. 1080p sits just below that at about 2 million pixels.
More pixels means more light, and more light means more energy. So if you are looking for an energy-efficient option and aren’t concerned about getting the maximum number of pixels possible, a 1080P TV is a good compromise.
The VIZIO D40-D1 has a 60 Hz effective refresh rate for greater motion clarity, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and uses the VIZIO Internet App to help organize your favorite streaming services. The D40-D1 comes in a size range from 24-inch to 50-inch to fit the vast majority of spaces.
What we like:
- You still get full high definition without needing to pay or provide the energy requirements for 4K.
- It comes in five different size options, from 24” to 50”.
What we don’t like:
- The speakers aren’t quite the same quality as the screen and are prone to popping noises.
If you’re unconcerned about 4K picture quality but are carbon conscious, then the D40-D1 is an excellent compromise. The 1080P screen still provides fantastic picture quality, but because it has around a quarter of the pixels of 4K, uses significantly less energy.
5. Best for off-grid use – SuperSonic SC-2412 LED Widescreen HDTV & Monitor 24″
If you’re off on an RV vacation, staying in a hotel for work, or just need a multi-purpose solution for a home office or bedroom, then the SC-2412 is an excellent choice.
This compact television also doubles as a PC monitor. It’s 1080p, so you get good crisp resolution without the added energy use of a 4K screen. The built-in DVD player gives you more entertainment options without the extra energy cost of running two devices.
As a cross between a computer monitor and a TV, the SC-2412 is compact and thin, great for getting into tight spaces, but still has multiple picture modes and digital noise reduction you’d expect from a television.
With both HDMI and USB inputs, you also have the freedom to connect a Firestick or similar device to expand your entertainment options.
What we like:
- The built-in DVD player cuts down on energy usage.
- It works just as well as a computer screen as it does a compact television.
What we don’t like:
- The manufacturer, SuperSonic, has been merged out of existence, making warranty claims difficult.
The SC-2412 is an excellent flexible and portable energy efficient TV. Combining a computer monitor, DVD player, and TV, this diminutive all-in-one package is excellent for if you’re on the move.
Why buy an energy-efficient TV?
If you already have a television that you are satisfied with, there’s no need to rush out and replace it with another model advertised as “energy-efficient.”
Most modern TVs are already energy-efficient compared to the clunky power-hungry Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monsters of the past. If you’re replacing a TV that still works, you also have to consider the environmental impact of disposing of a TV and manufacturing the new one.
However, if your TV has broken and you need a replacement, it is worth looking for an ENERGY STAR certified television. Being energy-efficient doesn’t mean diminished picture quality. What it does mean is around a 25% reduction in power requirements.
This might not seem like much, but given how much time the average family spends watching TV, it will make a difference to both your energy bills and global power consumption.
If everyone who spends, on average, five hours a day watching TV reduced their energy load by 25%, it would make a huge difference.
Which type of TV uses the least energy?
When it comes to the relative energy efficiency of different TV types, there are three significant factors to consider.
The first is what kind of screen does the television have. There are two principal types of modern TV:
Plasma TVs use a similar process to a fluorescent light bulb (though far more complicated). Electrically conductive gas trapped in tiny cells is excited by applying voltage. The excited gas then releases photons of light.
Each pixel on the screen of a plasma TV contains three of these tiny cells, one red, one blue, one green. The TV’s processor intelligently fires the cells to create the right colors for the screen’s picture.
If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Plasma TVs produce better color contrast, picture brightness, and color saturation, but they’re very power-hungry and have shorter lifespans than most LCD or LED TVs.
Liquid crystal display (LCD) uses a liquid crystal solution between two panels to block light emitted by an LED back panel. This creates the images on the screen. The front panel filters the UV light not blocked by the crystal into the correct colors.
LCD screens use about half the power of a plasma screen of the same size. Compared to a plasma screen, an LCD TV offers excellent resolutions and bright colors but poor reproduction of blacks and are not as bright.
There tends to be some confusion around LCD/LED TVs because of the similar acronym and because they basically refer to the same type of TV. The LCD provides the image, and the LED provides the light. Both parts are more energy-efficient than plasma.
The second factor to consider is the size of your TV. The larger the size, the more energy the TV uses. It’s that simple.
Resolution is one of the factors that TVs are more commonly advertised on. The term resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up the screen. Those need to be lit and colored using electricity, so a higher resolution uses more energy.
Buying an energy-efficient TV is about finding a balance between wanting the biggest, brightest, highest resolution television you can afford and how much power that TV uses.
Features to look for when buying an energy-efficient TV
As we mentioned above, screen size, screen type, and resolution will impact how energy-efficient your TV is capable of being.
However, most manufacturers have picked up on the desire for more eco-friendly electronics and included a number of flashy and confusingly named features to capitalize on that.
Generally, there are three factors you want to look for:
- Energy Saving Mode – Also marketed as “Eco-mode” or “Green-mode,” this is a setting that lets you dim your screen brightness, reducing your TV’s power consumption. Ideal for when you’ve got something on in the background, but aren’t really watching it.
- Presence Sensors – We’ve all wandered out of the room at some point, gotten distracted, and left the TV switched on. A presence sensor picks up on you leaving the room and puts the TV on standby to conserve energy after a certain amount of time.
- Green Manufacturing – The electronics industry is under increasing pressure to adopt sustainable manufacturing practices and eco-friendly product design. Some TV manufacturers, like Samsung, have already implemented eco-friendly design and production processes.
Since manufacturing represents a hidden ecological cost to purchasing a TV, it is worth prioritizing companies that offer greener options.
Choose the right settings on your TV to save power
Once you have your TV, there are some steps you can take to reduce your day-to-day power consumption:
Choose the right picture mode
Picture modes like dynamic, sports, game, or vivid are designed to display at maximum brightness. Changing those settings to standard, movie, or cinema and simply reducing the light level in the room cuts down on the energy your TV is using.
Use a sleep timer
If you regularly fall asleep with the TV on, then set a sleep timer once your head starts to nod. The timer will turn the TV off after a predetermined amount of time has elapsed.
Turn the screen off
If you’ve just put the TV on to listen to a show in the background while you work, clean, or do other tasks, consider turning off the screen altogether. Most modern TVs have this option, which significantly cuts down the overall energy consumption.
If you’re carbon-conscious, then how you dispose of your old TV is as important as what new television you buy. Many of the major television manufacturers now operate an electronics recycling program.
VIZIO was recently awarded a Sustainable Materials Management Gold Tier distinction from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for recycling 40,000,000 pounds of electronic waste every 12 months.
Samsung operates a ‘Triple-R’ program, ensure that resources can be reused by recovering, reusing, and recycling after the product’s lifespan through e-waste take-back programs in different countries.
Sony is also a take-back/recycling for electronics, as does LG, working hand in hand with governments worldwide as part of the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive to prevent electronics from being sent to landfills.
In addition to the TV itself, make sure you responsibly recycle any old DVDs, which otherwise take millions of years to decompose and have a devastating impact on the planet’s ecosystem.
The most efficient way to stream media
Once you’ve got your new TV home and recycled your old one, you’re going to want to watch something on it, probably by streaming it.
The number of households using streaming media has increased by 63% since 2014 and how you stream is another chance to be more energy efficient.
Many of the TVs we’ve highlighted in this article come with a built-in streaming app or service. If you are sitting down to watch something, you’ll be using 15 times less energy by streaming through an app, Firestick, or Roku than booting up your games console.
If you’re not using the TV, you’ll be four times more energy-efficient using a tablet to watch your favorite streamed media than a laptop.
Since we spend so much time using them, choosing the right TV is an excellent way to conserve energy and help both your wallet and the environment. It’s also far easier to buy a greener TV than conserving water or using a hybrid car.
Now that you know exactly what makes a TV more energy-efficient and what steps you can take to minimize its power draw, you have all you need to find a television that gives you the picture quality you want for the lowest amount of electricity used.
Do you have a super energy efficient TV that you think should have made our list? Do you have any tips on minimizing the amount of power your TV uses? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.