Monday, January 23, 2006

TV 'sleep' button stands accused

Apparently, the average household has up to 12 gadgets on standby or charging. Leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby wastes the equivalent of around two power stations' worth of electricity each year. Around 800,000 tonnes of carbon are released as a result of "sleep mode".

Energy efficiency groups are urging people to carry out their own personal energy review because homes are set to place an ever increasing demand on power supplies - cost notwithstanding!

The number of TVs in the UK is estimated to reach 74 million by 2020, meaning that there will be more televisions than people to watch them.

The TV of the future will probably be the TFT-type (thin film transistor) screen or some other advancement. These are low voltage devices, but require a transformer running on 240V to step-down to the working voltage. The upshot is that placing on standby would make a lot less difference to actually being "on".

High-fi, video, DVD and computers etc are lower energy consuming devices (no CRT), so the difference between "on" and "standby" is consequently less. Essentially, "on" all the time.

It was a parliamentary question by Norman Baker (Liberal Democrat's environment spokesman) to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that led to the admission over emissions. Manufacturers include sleep modes on their products because it is what their customers want, says Matthew Armishaw from the Market Transformation Programme (MTP).

(I've never been asked. Have you?)

"For most products, it is purely consumer-driven; it is not a technical issue."

"Most set-top boxes need to have power all of the time because they download information from digital transmissions that update their electronic programme guide and software." Set-top boxes are becoming a common fixture in most homes across the UK because of plans to switch off the analogue TV signal in the near future.

STANDBY EMISSIONS. Estimated annual CO2 emissions from devices left on standby:

Stereos - 1,600,000 tonnes
Videos - 960,000 tonnes
TVs - 480,000 tonnes
Consoles - 390,000 tonnes
DVD players - 100,000 tonnes
Set-top boxes - 60,000 tonnes
(Source: Energy Saving Trust)

Norman Baker favours a "polluter pays" approach to the standby problem: "In the end, there has to be costs in the form of manufacturers paying something to recognize the damage they are causing.

This, of course, translates to "consumer pays". A tax rather than fixing the problem at source.

Some of these standby modes for televisions use two-thirds of the electricity that it would if it were on. "I think some (most?) people think that standby is a tiny red dot that has no impact at all."

The Energy Saving Trust's survey found that one-in-seven people questioned thought putting devices on standby was actually more energy-efficient than switching them on and off. [Less damaging to the device, though.] The MTP's Matthew Armishaw clears up any confusion: "That is largely a myth. There may have been some issues with very old electronic components [most TVs?], but it is certainly not the case with today's consumer electronic goods."

I would venture that the old cathode ray tube TV (probably still in the majority of TVs) would consume substantially less power than the TV "tube" as it isn't being energised. A very high voltage (around 20,000 volts) is necessary to drive the tube.

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