More efficient TVs could be headed our way

Watching television is certainly getting expensive.

And I don’t mean the cable fees.

I mean the electricity. The sets are getting bigger and bigger. And we have more and more of them. So even with some efficiency gains, they’re gulping down more and more power.

The government’s Energy Star website has an interesting factoid: The Consumer Electronics Association estimated about 39 million televisions would be shipped to the U.S. in 2011. More than 19 million of these were expected to be greater than 40 inches in size.

A 2001 study showed that TVs used three percent of the average household’s power.

The estimate now, from a global group that’s holding a competition to make TVs more energy efficient, is six to eight percent.

The competition is focusing, for starters, on flat-panel TVs.

The competition comes from a group with an unwieldy name — Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative. It was started by the U.S. Department of Energy and similar agencies in other countries.

Television manufacturers worldwide can compete, and the winner is the one that’s the most energy efficient. There are three television size categories (small, medium and large) in four regions (Australia, the European Union, India, and North America).

The idea of a competition is an interesting one. Often, the Department of Energy will give a grant to propel developments in a particular area.

But when it came to lighting, the department came up with the L Prize — a competition for manufacturers to come up with an LED that is the equivalent of an old 60-watt incandescent that meets strict specifications.

In August, Philips pocketed the $10 million prize and got a chunk of publicity to boot.

Consumers got a great new bulb.

Winners in the TV contest will be announced in the fall. So, as they say, stay tuned.