Opinion

Couch potatoes also guzzle energy

Thinking of buying a new television?

Well, apparently you are not alone if a new jumbo-tronic video monster is calling your name. According to a consumer survey taken this May, more Americans than ever are thinking of getting a new TV.

Many things are behind the allure of a new television, from life-like pictures to thundering sound. But there’s another twist I noticed in this survey: The high cost of gasoline is causing us to hit the couch rather than hit the highway. In a quest to save energy, we’re choosing entertainment that doesn’t come with a $4.50-per-gallon price tag.

Sounds good — you save at the pump, and save the Earth, too. The trouble is, that new TV may just be a guzzler, too, not of petroleum but of electrons.

In a step backward, yesterday’s TVs often use just a fraction of the energy of brand-new models. As an example, an old-style cathode-ray tube television (the bulky kind from the late-1990s or earlier) uses only about 20 percent to 30 percent of the electricity per square inch of screen size than a new, flat-panel style unit uses. Worse, not only do new sets use more energy per square inch, there are a lot more square inches on the screen. Fortunately, there is some good news in this, and it all comes courtesy of the fine folks at the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

Earlier this year, while we were all suddenly pining for new televisions, the DOE started slapping its EnergyStar logo on the “best of the best” when it comes to energy efficiency. No need to do a lot of heavy research here, simply shop for a set that has the EnergyStar logo and you’ll be getting a model that’s 30 percent more efficient than the average for its size. Want to know more? Then check out energystar.gov on the Web (and yes, there are EnergyStar computers and monitors, too) and spend a few moments with a handy tool for determining the choices for any given style and size of television. You enter the size and type of screen you want, and up pops the list of energy efficient sets now on the market.

No doubt, the best and healthiest step for saving energy this summer is to get outside and walk, run or pedal your way some place and park both the TV and the car. But, after we’ve had our time in the sun, those cloudy, wet days of autumn will certainly send us all huddling around the home theater system once more. And, if those consumer research people are right, odds are some lucky couch potatoes in our midst will be settling down in front of spanking new TVs.

I only ask two favors: Shop for the EnergyStar logo, and save room on the sofa for me.

Andy Wappler, senior public relations manager at Puget Sound Energy and former chief meteorologist at KIRO-TV: AskAndy@PSE.com.

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