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Report: 4KTVs Could Add $1B to Energy Bills

Ultra HD/4K TVs pack in the pixels, but they are also poised to pack higher power requirements, claims a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In the report -- The Big Picture: Ultra High-Definition Televisions Could Add $1 Billion to Viewers' Annual Electric Bills  -- the NRDC estimates that UHD TVs, which pump out about 8 million pixels, use an average of 30% more energy than their HD predecessors, and could tack on $1 billion to the annual energy bills of television viewers – if energy-saving efforts aren’t implemented.

That energy-draining forecast is based on what would be required to swap today’s HDTVs (36-inches or wider) with UHD TVs, the NRDC said, claiming that the purported $1 billion annual energy bill increase would be equal 8 billion kilowatt hours, or the annual power requirements of three San  Franciscos.  

NRDC, which estimates there are 300 million installed TVs in the U.S., also held that a UHD TV switch would also create an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution, and that a move to TVs with High Dynamic Range will only amplify the power problem. The group claimed that an HDR version of a movie used 47% more power than the same title in 4K without HDR.

The report isn’t all doom and gloom, noting that there are remedies available. Enabling automatic brightness control, which would fluctuate depending on room light levels, cause TVs to suck up 50% less power on average, NRDC said, but warned that energy savings varied widely by model (from 17% to 93%).

NRDC and partner, Ecos Research, arrived at its findings by analyzing public databases of UHD television energy use, sales data and also performed power use measurements on 21 televisions (a cross-section of 2014 and 2015 models), with a particular focus on 55-inch TVs “because they are the most prevalent size and represent the best value among UHD televisions on the market today.”