Stay Tuned: Consumers Gain Clearer Picture of TV Energy Costs


FTC’s yellow sticker makes shopping easier, saving money and saving energy easier


Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

Come summer, anyone buying a new TV will be able to compare its energy efficiency with that of other models, thanks to a new rule issued yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This FTC rule requires that TVs, for the first time, carry an “Energy Guide” label, both on store shelves and on retail websites.

Coming soon: Energy Guide TV label.

As energy-thirsty, big-screen TVs flood the market and make their way into homes across America, the picture of household energy usage is changing quickly. Due to the growth in screen size, operating hours, and the number of installed TVs, this appliance now represents 10 to 20 percent of a typical home’s annual electricity use.

The recognizable yellow Energy Guide label, already required for major home appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers, will allow consumers to get a real understanding of the true cost of their TV consumption. The label will show a TV’s estimated annual energy usage and cost in utilities bills while also showing how that compares with all other models in the same size category.

“Bringing the Energy Guide label to TVs is a big step forward for consumers,” said David Baron, managing attorney of Earthjustice, which filed comments in the rulemaking process calling for strong labeling requirements. “This information will help Americans make smarter choices— saving them money and leading to a cleaner energy economy. We hope the FTC strengthens these requirements and works to bring the Energy Guide label to many more appliances in the near future.”

TVs in this country use more than 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year—that’s enough to power all the homes in New York state for an entire year. By the end of this year, 37 million TVs will have been shipped to the U.S. for sale in 2010 alone. Recognizing that many consumers research and purchase TVs online, the rule also requires Internet sellers to display the full energy guide label (or a link thereto) on the main page displaying a particular TV model, so consumers can compare the efficiency of different models while shopping online.

Still, there are ways to bring consumers even more power to save. The TV Energy Guide label itself is too small to be read on higher store shelves, the label and information is not required on appliance boxes for easy viewing while consumers browse store aisles, and stronger steps are needed to require retailers ensure that labels are actually displayed on products at all times.

The Government Accountability Office has found that about half of products displayed in stores don’t comply with energy efficiency labeling requirements, but FTC refuses to hold retailers responsible, letting them shirk their responsibility and blaming consumers for allegedly removing labels or using other excuses for selling unlabeled products,” said Baron. “The FTC has done a good job of bringing this label to appliances, but to bring about real savings for consumers, it must strengthen the rules and get serious about enforcing them.”

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