Plasma Vs. LCD – Which Is More Energy Efficient?


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photo by dno1967

Is it time to buy a new television set? Because of the low prices and the DTV transition that happens in February, many people are out buying new sets. But you aren’t only concerned about price, right? You are also concerned about how much energy the new flat-screens TV’s use, and rightly so; there is a big difference between LCD and Plasma technologies. Let’s take a look…

LCD’s (which stands for Liquid Crystal Display), have a white light behind the glass, and when this light hits each pixel of the liquid crystals, the electric current decides what color will show up on the screen. They are generally lighter and thinner than plasma TV’s.

Plasma TV’s use thousands of sealed, low pressure glass chambers filled with a mixture of neon and xenon. Behind these chambers are colored phosphors, one red, one blue, and one green for each chamber. When energized, these chambers of “plasma” emit invisible UV light. The UV light strikes the red, green and blue phosphors on the back glass of the display making them produce visible light. Plasma’s tend to be heavier and thicker than LCD’s, but they also handle dark colors better and have faster refresh rates.

So what about energy efficiency? Well, LCD’s use between 2-4 times less energy than plasma TV’s do, depending on who you ask. They both use way less energy than the “regular” kind of tube TV (CRT) that most of us had (and still have) in our homes, but the LCD definitely comes out the winner on energy efficiency. LCD’s use florescent backlighting to display the images, which is a definite energy saver over plasma technology. Many of these TV’s are also Energy Star rated, but keep in mind that getting that rating on a TV is only a measurement of how much energy the TV uses while in standby mode and not while it is in full operation. And if you are like me, you will have it plugged into a power strip and cutting all the power anyway when you aren’t using it. For pure energy and cost savings while watching TV, buying an LCD is definitely the way to go. But once you bring it home, what should you do with your old TV set?

If it is still working, donate it or give it away to someone who could use a TV that still works fine. Try Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or

If it does not work anymore, do not just toss it in the trash (In many communities this is actually against the law due to the amount of chemicals in them). Check out Earth 911 or the EPA’s site to find a recycling center close to you that can handle this kind of e-waste.

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  1. Good question Mark. According to Energy Star, the average LCD uses 1/2 to 2/3 of that of an average CRT (tube) TV – a big difference!

  2. Very nice Beth, I am sure you will be much happier with the LCD. I know thats the route we will go when it’s time for us to buy too!

  3. We just bought a new LCD to replace a 20 year old CRT TV. We couldn’t be happier with it. The picture is great and we are pleased that we are using less energy (the new tv is also Engergy Star rated). The old tv, which still works, has been relegated to the bedroom, where it gets little use, but is still nice to have for checking the weather in the morning, or the occasional evening show.
    We looked at Plasmas, but ultimately decided that the energy saving LCD was the right choice for us.

  4. Very true indeed, but I am guessing that a 40in LCD uses less power than a 20in CRT. That being said, 40in of TV also uses a lot of materials, weighs more for shipping, and leaves more material at the end of it’s lifetime.

  5. It should be mentioned that size counts too, and the temptation is to buy bigger and bigger as they become more affordable. One does not help the environment by replacing a 20 in CRT TV with a 40 in LCD, for the area increases by a factor of 4 and energy consumption goes up with area.

  6. Thanks for making this information available. It has been very difficult to find any figures on the potential energy savings of the differnt tv options. Sorry for my ignorance but is 2-4 times less energy equivalent to saying 50%-75% less energy? Thanks again

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