Report: 4K UHD TVs Increase Your Energy Bill

How green is your TV?

TV manufacturers are under growing pressure to make products that consume less energy. The arrival of a new generation of 4K/UHD TVs, however, makes that challenge all the most difficult. According to recent studies, 4K TVs use on average 30 percent more power than 720 or 1080 HD TVs

Factor this startling figure against the predicted number of 4K TVs finding their way into US homes, and you could be looking at a combined increase in residential energy usage of more than a billion dollars.

Woman sitting on couch watching 4K Ultra HD TV


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The Research

The group behind the eye-catching report, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), did not pluck these figures out of thin air. It measured the power consumption of 21 TVs—focussing on the 55-inch size point, as it is the best selling 4K TV size—across a range of manufacturers and price points, as well as taking in data from public databases of UHD TV energy use. Estimates of how many households have 4K TVs are based on analysis of TV sales figures.

The report took as a starting point the fact that there are around 300 million TVs in circulation in the US. It combined this figure with its 4K TV energy consumption findings to calculate what would happen if there was a nationwide switch from 36-inch and larger TVs to UHD TVs, arriving at an extra 8 billion kilowatt-hours of energy consumption nationwide. That equates to three times more energy than the whole of San Francisco consumes annually. 

The Cost in Pollution

The NRDC calculated that the extra 8 billion kilowatt-hours could end up creating more than five million metric tons of extra carbon pollution.

Key to the NRDC’s figures, too, is the fact that the shift to 4K UHD resolutions is leading to the sale of more big-screen TVs. A third of all TVs sold today are, apparently, at least 50 inches in size, and it’s a simple fact that bigger TVs consume more energy. In fact, according to the NRDC’s tests, some big-screen TVs appear to burn through more electricity than a typical refrigerator.

As if the increase in power consumption caused by 4K wasn’t troubling enough, the NRDC also points out that things are likely to get worse with the arrival of high dynamic range (HDR) TV technology. 

The HDR Effect

HDR technology expands the luminance range of a display, effectively broadening the contrast and making colors look deeper and richer. This requires the use of more power from your TV due to the extra brightness involved.

The NRDC’s measurements suggest that watching a film in HDR eats up nearly 50 percent more power than watching the same film in a normal dynamic range.

At this point, we feel obliged to chip in and stress that TV manufacturers have made strides in recent years when it comes to reducing power consumption; it's reasonable to expect continued improvements as 4K/UHD and HDR mature. 

Steps You Can Take

There are already things you can do when buying or using a new 4K TV to mitigate energy consumption. For example, you can use an automatic brightness mode, which adjusts brightness in response to ambient light levels. Look for TVs that have an Energy Star label, and avoid the quick start modes that some TVs offer. 

As fans of TV image quality, we have concerns about how much our AV experience may be impacted by energy pressures that seem a little harsh given how hard the AV world has worked to become greener. But at the same time, we all want lower power bills and a healthier planet, right?

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