It’s a Power-Hungry Christmas

HDTVChristmastime makes one wonder if global warming really is caused by fossil fuel consumption.

Certainly the accumulated heat generated by the friction of credit cards being endlessly swiped through cash registers is warming the planet just a tad?

Well, maybe not.

But a lot of the stuff we’re buying, especially electronics, is undoubtedly wrecking the world. This is particularly true of those bad-ass big screen HDTVs. Some of them burn more electricity that your fridge.

Let me make it clear: I love HD. Watching hockey in HD is one step closer to mistaking your own BO for Vincent Lecavalier’s.

But sweat isn’t the only aroma being kicked up by the digital television revolution.

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In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency figures that by 2010, big screen TVs will contribute an additional 35 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment every year. Half of that will be generated by burning coal.

That’s a lot of stink.

However, we can embrace HD and a tree at the same time. We just need to exercise some discretion in our purchasing and use habits.

So what can we do as consumers to try and limit the impact of our entertainment habits on the environment and keep our electrical bills to a reasonable level?

First, ignore “Energy Star,” a US-based program that hasn’t fully defined the criteria that will earn HDTVs their stamp of approval. They basically slap their sticker on any old set these days.

Like last year, Energy Star approved a gas-guzzling 434-watt Toshiba flat-screen HDTV. Compare that to your old-school fat-screen CRT, which generally consumed about 100 to 125 watts. Or even a fridge, which generally holds steady at about 399 watts.

Better to trust your own discretionary abilities. In other words, read some labels.

(Reading labels is good for you. How else would you know that Girl Guide cookies still contain trans-fats?)

Check out the the power consumption requirements of any HDTV you’re considering. The more watts, the heftier the electrical bill, and the bigger the environmental footprint.

Next, avoid the SUV mentality when you’re buying a TV.

Make sure you really need as big a television set as that under-paid, over-commissioned sales guy (or your boyfriend/husband/brother/dad) says you do. It’s a simple truth that, the bigger the TV, the bigger the electrical bill.

And once you have your fancy new TV home sucking up your electro-juice, keep in mind that this unit doesn’t know how to completely turn off.

Unlike most other places in the world, in North America, TVs just go into “standby” mode when you hit the “off” button.

That means you’re still burning coal even when you’re not examining Gregory House’s wrinkles and dimples.

A good way to save some dough and reduce your environmental footprint is to plug your TV into a power bar or UPS.

These devices offer power switches that will fully cut power to the TV when it’s not in use.

Just one final thing here.

New HDTVs and video game systems go together like egos and Facebook. So you should probably know that Sony’s and Microsoft’s current generation of game consoles suck up as much, if not more, electricity than a lot of TVs.

The Playstation 3 consumes about 200 watts during peaks times of game play. It idles at 180 watts, the XBox 360’s high point of power consumption.

If you let power requirements guide you, you’ll buy a Nintendo Wii. It doesn’t do HD, but does that really matter?

This innovative system uses one-tenth the power of either the XBox 360 or Playstation 3 and its games are often way more fun.

Plus, the Wii runs in near silence whereas the other two crank out more decibels than a dishwasher.

I’d never tell anyone not to buy a new gadget, especially not a high-definiton television set. But I do recommend you consider the wider impact of your technology consumption habits.

The HD experience is a nice escape from one’s own personal reality.

But we don’t want to make that escape a permanent requirement in life.

Respect the world outside your window and shop with the environment in mind this Christmas season.

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