Our Hunt for an Affordable, Eco-Friendly TV

When we moved into our apartment, we had a major snafu. We live on the second floor, accessible only by a very narrow staircase with a 180 degree turn. In other words, it’s not the easiest unit to move into with large furniture. Thankfully, our entertainment center was the only casualty, because it was just too big (and heavy) to make the turn in the stairwell. After several frustrated hours of inching along, screaming and beating our heads against the wall, we finally gave up and donated the unit to the Salvation Army thrift store.

Of course, that left us with no entertainment center, and a large, heavy 36″ tube TV that is still sitting on the living room floor. We haven’t been able to unbox our home theater system or any movies or video games because we have no place to put them. It also left us without a place to display our family photos and the beautiful decorative figurines we had bought years ago. We have been looking for some audio visual equipment, for our new tv.

So we began our hunt on sites like http://directics.com/xilinx-fpga for a replacement. The problem is, everything we can afford that is remotely eco-friendly is also designed to hold a much lighter flat panel TV. Looks like noone is making furniture for heavy tube TVs these days. We scoured through thrift stores and Craigslist looking afor an older piece, to no avail. We’re tired of looking at all these boxes and watching TV on the floor way below comfortable viewing height, so we decided to sell this TV and replace it with a flat panel model.

Of course that made my football watching husband happy, but it made me happy too because — let’s face it — flat panel TVs are a lot nicer to look at. Not exactly justification for replacing a perfectly good, fully functional TV, but at least both of us are happy with the decision.

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Finding a TV that’s both green AND affordable, however, is a tougher task. We found some reasonable green options, like Phillips’ EcoTV (which apparently is no longer available new), Sony’s BRAVIA EcoSeries and Samsung’s energy efficient LED series, but we’re not really in a position to shell out 4 figures for a TV, like the Chicago screen rentals provider does when working for festivals and concerts, right? Not even close. So we started looking into buying a used or refurbished TV. After doing a lot of research, however, we learned that might not be such a good idea. LCD and plasma TVs are pretty costly to repair. So much so that many companies recommend replacing rather than repairing them. That made my green spidey senses start buzzing, but apparently this is a problem with all newer TVs, regardless of brand, so we don’t want to take the chance of buying an already defective used TV. We also don’t want to buy an off brand TV, which often come with poor or nonexistent customer service or warranties.

The top 3 brands recommended to us? LG, Panasonic and Sony. Next, we started narrowing by energy efficiency and other green characteristics. Where many of the more expensive green options are energy efficient AND have features like using fewer heavy metals and recycled, recyclable packaging, the more affordable options don’t have those features. In fact, the only truly green component is that most of them are Energy Star qualified.

Good, but not good enough for me. I want to know whether they use energy while on standby, which is a big reason TVs are such energy hogs. I want to know how far they were shipped and whether the packaging contains styrofoam. I want to know if they have auto-dimming features that maximize energy use by dimming the backlight based on the level of lighting in a room.

Suffice it to say I have turned what could have been a simple TV buying experience into a crusade to find the most sustainable option. I’ve officially become a crazy green shopper.

Does anyone have any suggestions for finding a greener TV? I’ll take any help I can get, and I know my husband is ready to get on with this process. Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. I’ll be forever indebted to you 🙂

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By jennae

Hi! I'm Jennae Petersen and I'm the eco diva who had the bright idea to share my journey toward green living with the blogosphere. Some of you may know me as the founder of Green Your Decor, my blog about eco-friendly home decor, as a Walmart Mom, from Twitter or from my organic cotton t-shirt line Differently Clothing. Stick around for a while!

6 comments

  1. Wow– really interesting to hear that flatpanels are often just replaced rather than repaired. Not good news. I’ve read that several manufacturers are coming out with models that are significantly more energy efficient in 2011, but you probably don’t want to wait that long…another issue with TVs is the use of the greenhouse gas nitrogen triflouride, which is 17,000 times more potent than CO2. (See http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/big-tvs-bad-for-environment.php). It looks like Toshiba doesn’t use that.

  2. Hi.I just found out about your site from green your decor & now I have your site bookmarked. I’d love to know what tv you decide to go with, we also have the tube tv’s….I’d love to have a pretty flat screen tv that takes up space but my husband says they burn so much energy… last year we were staying at a hotel with a flat screen tv in the room & every time you passed close to the tv, you could feel the heat coming from the tv…kind of scary.I was also thinking about the Sony Bravia,so please keep us updated,thanks!Renee
    .-= Renee Alam´s last blog ..I’m Moving to Virginia!!!! =-.

  3. @Kirsten The link doesn’t work, but thanks for the info. Treehugger was one of my first stops when I started researching the issue 🙂 They have a lot of great information about why newer TVs are, in general, not very green.

    @Renee & Gina I hadn’t even considered how hot they get, but that’s certainly something else we need to consider. We’re narrowing down our choices, and I’ll be sure to write about what we decide.

  4. Dear Jennae-
    I just stumbled across your blog and I would like to compliment you on both your articles and your new hair. I think you do a good job of writing about both sides of the struggle to become more sustainable.
    Anyway…
    Maybe you have already purchased a new green-ish TV, but maybe you haven’t yet.
    In the case that you haven’t, I have an alternative suggestion: don’t buy one.

    My husband and I moved three months ago and we decided at that time to forego broadcast TV altogether. My husband had an older (non-HD capable) flat-panel that we set-up on a bookshelf and connected to his X-box so that we can watch movies and he can still play games. Sometimes we watch Hulu or YouTube, and there are still opportunities for me to watch TV…friend’s houses, laundromat, lunchroom at work, etc. It hasn’t been nearly as painful as I expected, and we don’t waste time watching bad TV just because there isn’t anything else on.
    I don’t even think about it anymore. I haven’t lost touch, I just have found other things to do with my free time, and I still keep up with news through the internet and radio. Our electric bill has been much lower than it would be with a 36″-bright-as-day display running 3-4 hours each night, and we don’t have a cable bill to pay.

    If you still want to watch TV, but you don’t want your current TV to remain on the floor, consider mounting it in a corner like they do in conference rooms–this way you won’t have to buy another huge entertainment center that doesn’t fit in your apartment. You might even be able to using an existing bookshelf, end-table, desk, or nightstand to put your tv on after re-arranging your space. Otherwise, see if craigslist has an existing piece of furniture that you could use as a TV stand. (Remember here that the first two “r”s are “reduce” and “reuse” not “rid” and “replace”, even if you are replacing with an eco-friendly product.)
    My concern here is that if you purchase a new TV, albeit a green one, you are introducing two products to the waste stream, rather than one, because eventually your new TV will also break and because it will be difficult to fix, you will have to get rid of it and get a new one.

    Yet another option is to purchase a used TV. There are often gently used electronic items that enter the market because of 2 or 3-year rotational corporate upgrades. This would mean that your replacement TV would be less expensive than a brand new one and would save it from entering the waste stream.
    Whoa, I just realized that this is really long!
    Good luck with your decision and I hope that you are able to find a solution that make both you and mother nature happy.

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