Q. I've heard that some high-definition televisions use as much electricity as a refrigerator. How can I avoid them and choose the most efficient model? – Samantha, Mich.

A. It's great that technology allows us to keep abreast of important news like whether or not our favorite television personalities have clogged pores or are in need of an eyebrow wax, but television comes with a cost. Some high definition sets are huge electricity hogs and can use as much as 500 killowatt hours a year!  

What, kilowatt hours don't scare you? What if we translate that into $200 in utility costs? Now you're listening.

Thankfully, it's not hard to find a TV that uses less juice. First, the obvious: go with a reasonably-sized screen. Every additional square inch sucks up a proportional amount of electricity, so don't buy anything that's bigger than you really need, says Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. How's your eyesight? Good enough to pass the DMV exam? And are you planning to put that new TV in the same room as the couch from which you intend to watch it? Good. Then you probably don't need a 58-inch screen. Next, look for either a rear projection or LCD screen. In a recent report, CNET found that these use less electricity than plasma screens do.  

Finally, pick an Energy Star-rated set. These models, which allow you to choose brightness levels (as opposed to coming pre-set to super-bright) are the most efficient ones available -- up to 30 percent more efficient than their non-Energy Star counterparts. Just be sure you pick the "home" or "standard" brightness setting once you get your new TV out of the box, to make sure you're cashing in on energy savings. Also worth noting: models in line with the old standards will probably be still on the shelves for a while, and will also carry the Energy Star logo. Print out this list and take it to the store to be sure you're getting one with the updated standards. Okay, so to review:

Normal size + LCD or rear projection + Energy Star = Good.

Giant + plasma + non-Energy Star = Not So Good.

Now you're ready to start shopping! Or not. One last thing to keep in mind: though the new Energy Start standards are a big improvement, a little bird at the EPA has told us that, thanks to ever-improving tech, even tighter standards are just around the corner. So if you can hold off for another year or two, you've got even greener pastures ahead.

Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. It was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

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