It wasn't too long ago when the refrigerator held the heavyweight title for biggest home energy hog, accounting for more than 13% of total electricity usage.  Thanks to the EnergyStar program, appliance manufacturers were driven to make refrigerators more and more efficient.  But a new contender has arrived, one which could far eclipse the refrigerator in terms of energy consumption -- the big screen plasma.

Every year, the plasmas grow in size and resolution and drop in cost, making that coveted 60" high-def screen both more desirable and attainable.  But a 60" plasma can devour up to 540 watts/hr or more, surpassing the energy use of a standard refrigerator. (Note: plasma TV's have been making great strides in energy efficiency and some 50" 2009 models are as low as 300 watts.  Check out the great CNET comparison chart).

Doing the math

Nielson reports that the average American watches 142 hours of television per month x 12 months. At 540 watts that is a whopping 920 kWh per year. And that's just when the television is on.  Most televisions continue to burn energy while off.  This is called its "phantom load," and it accounts for an additional 3.7 kWh (at an estimated 0.5 watts/hr x 20 hours of 'off' time).  Your total for the year?  Having that 60" plasma will require 957 924 kWh and cost the average American about $111 (at 12 cents/kWh).  

This is one reason why the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) recently issued a staggering report that projected home electronics usage would double by 2025 (3.5% every year).  The energy required to power our TV's will go from the current 33 billion kWh to 66 billion kWh.  That will require about 10 new power plants and will produce 23.1 million tons of CO2 just for our TV's!

Fortunately, there is a solution to our high-def environmental woes.  And it will deliver a visual experience that will far surpass even the fanciest plasma TV's.  It is called Laser TV.

Eye-popping color

I had the chance to see the LaserVue on display recently, and as I passed by I saw a crowd of people just standing still and staring, mouths slightly open in a hypnotic trance. I turned to see what they were all looking at, and there it was.  More like a mirage than a television image.  The Mitsubishi demo featured tropical fish swimming underwater, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I literally felt like I could reach out and touch the fish.  The color was so real, and the motion so fluid, that my mind instantly forgot I was looking at an electronic device.

What explains this remarkable image quality?  Because Mitsubishi dispenses with the use of phosphors (used in the plasmas) or filters (used in LCD's).  Ever since the birth of the TV, we have been tied to these technologies which transmute white light into other colors by passing the light through a medium. Though we have continually improved TV's, the best TV manufacturer's have still only ben able to achieve about 50% of full color range (what we now call hi-def).

But in the Mitsubishi screen, the light is delivered directly by an array of lasers, and so the colors are real, not "translated," delivering the full color range perceivable to the human eye.  For this same reason the clarity of the image is preserved even during rapid movement.  The LaserVue is also 3d enabled, so when 3d media production hits its prime, this technology will be able to deliver a completely realistic 3d image.  

Good news for environmentalists

And the best news is that all this color is delivered at about 1/4 the energy use of a 60" typical hi-def plasma. Instead of that 934 kWh's per year, we're now talking about a much more modest 230 kWh's per year, which beats even a basic 36" TV.  This seems to be the recurring theme. Ultimately being green is not about giving up something, but about inventing a way to do it even better.  We are only limited by the design problems we set forth for ourselves, and in this case Mitsubishi has proved the point.


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