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Energy costs are rising around the country, so much so, that I even had to cut back on how much power I was drawing on my home theater system. After doing the math, I figured I could cut back about 1 HP, yes, that's horse power (tricky math but it can be done). I figured it was a good idea anyway, as I already had to be very careful with level control to avoid blowing the circuit. Like most of us total nut cases, I was running 220 watts to my center and 4 surround channels, 350w to my mains, and another 300w to each of my four subs, totaling about 3000 watts of pure fun. For those keeping track, it was powered by many large Parasound amps, and it was two full racks of heaven to look at. What was not heaven to look at was my electricity bill, ouch, good sound wasn't cheap. After I made what concessions I could on the amplifiers (anybody looking for a used 350w dual monoblock behemoth? lol), I decided to see what else could be done to curtail my energy use.

At the time, video displays were not that bright so it was hard to make any savings there, so basically, I had to just limit the amount of hours I used my theater system. Well, it's been over a decade since I started looking for ways to cut energy use, and I am really taking interest in a subject that was actually covered a few years ago, by our very own Terry Paulen. Back then the California Public Utilities Commission did an extensive study on energy usage, and Terry got to be involved in helping them measure the results of video calibration, and its results on power consumption. The results were startling, as it seemed that these new flat panel displays were finally getting bright enough that during the course of a proper calibration, we actually had to turn down some of that intensity just to get an accurate image. I remember laughing at the thought of marketing an ISF calibration to someone under the auspices that it would pay for itself in x amount of years. I mean, it's like asking someone in a Ferrari what they get for gas mileage, like they know or care. I guess I was like that with my home theater at one time, I didn't care about what it cost to run, and I only cared about how it performed while it was running.

If it was just my use of energy, I probably wouldn't actually care, because I am the king of my castle (apartment), and the king wants for nothing.....maybe some cookies. So, I am watching my bedroom TVs one day, nothing too big, just a 47" LCD for watching the satellite. I guess I got that 37" LCD running the Xbox so I gotta count that too. May as well throw in the 26" monitor too, I gotta see my emails. I figured since most master bedrooms have 3 TVs, maybe I ought to walk around the rest of the house and see if there were any other TVs running, because I don't want to be paying for power usage if it is not absolutely necessary, like my bedroom monitors. A quick look in the living room revealed that I was losing money, as my beautiful Runco projector was left on, but the credits were still rolling so someone must have only just finished a movie. I will assume the watched the whole thing, doing the math on the cost of a replacement bulb told me that I only paid a couple bucks for a movie for my beloved children, almost feels like I'm saving money now. So I power down the projector and continue my search to save a kilobuck.

I enter the kids' domain to find the oldest one playing Xbox on his LCD TV, the middle one is playing PlayStation 3 on his LCD TV, and the little one is playing a PS2, and still fortunately thinks it's cool. Well, I can certainly see a problem in our house, with all these TVs that appear to be absolutely necessary, we really need to profile their power consumption and get it optimized for efficiency. This will save me a lot of money. I noticed one other thing; I have a lot of LCD panels. They may not be what I use as a reference display, but they seem to be what is turned on most of the day. Most of us probably think that LCD TVs are very efficient, but that is not necessarily the case. As it turns out, today's modern LCD TVs have a feature called an adjustable backlight, which essentially makes the image brighter or darker according to your liking. Like most people, if you by a TV and plug it in and just watch it, you will most likely be watching its brightest settings as that is usually how they power up the first time. In this setting, you are not saving energy over anything else in the equivalent size. However, if you turn it all the way down it will reduce the consumption by about 70%. Now I'm not saying you can just turn it all the way down and still see it in all lighting conditions, but with a proper setting that still provides plenty of light output, you can save about 30% or more on the power consumption.

I am now living in Hawaii, and I have found that we are lucky enough to have bragging rights to the highest electrical rates in the U.S., yay. I decided to do some fun math to see what all this means, and what I found scared me. For instance, the commercial rate for electricity in Hawaii is 300 times more than the cost of commercial electricity in Las Vegas. You see, in Vegas, they get power basically for free on account of the benefit of having a hydro-electric plant. By contrast, in Hawaii we buy coal from the mainland, have it shipped here, and then burn it inefficiently, quite costly. In consumer terms, it's about 35 cents per Kw/hr in Hawaii, and about 20 cents in the Bay Area, those are the only two places I get a power bill so you will have to check your local rates to see what you are paying. For shock value, I am going to give the rest of my numbers based off of the rates here in good ol' paradise, so please read on; it might make you feel a little better about not living here.

In the following data we can see how a 42" LCD with a dimmable back light may be adjusted to save energy, while at the same time providing acceptable image brightness.

The following data is based on a residential rate of .35 Kwhr (Oahu, HI 7/1/12)

Size/Type 42" LCD Based on 8 hours of use per day
Average Draw 178 Watts $0.0623/hr
Calibrated Draw 108 Watts $ 0.0378 /hr
Savings per Hour $ 0.0245/hr
Savings per Day $ 0.196/day
Savings per Month $5.88/mo
Savings per Year $70.56/yr

Lifespan Calculations

For 1 TV $70/yr $560/8yrs
2 TV's $140/yr $1,120/8yrs
3 TV's $210/yr $1,680/8yrs
4 TV's $280/yr $2,240/8yrs
5 TV's $350/yr $2,800/8yrs

Maui Rates

To further add shock and disbelief, here is what the hotels on Maui are paying so their occupants can have a nice looking TV. I stayed at a low to medium priced hotel on Maui for a weekend in May of 2012, and every room had a 37" LCD, our room actually had two. Using that as a starting point, here is what they could expect to save if they calibrated their TVs:

Maui commercial electrical rates $0.40/KwHr

Size/Type 37" LCD
Avg. Usage 150w
Calibrated Usage 100w
Savings Per TV 50w
Based on 8hrs per day $58.40 / yr $467 / 8yrs
Per 50 TVs $2,920 / Yr $23,360 / 8yrs
Per 100 TVs $5,840 / Yr $46,720 / 8yrs
Per 500 TVs $29,200 / Yr $233,600 / 8yrs
Per 1000 TVs $58,400 / Yr $467,200 / 8yrs

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PLASMA TV's-see how they look mounted on a wall