News

Make your next TV Energy Star, and recycle your old one

Blaine Kyllo
For bchydro.com

If you're stunned by that wall of high-definition flatscreens as you walk past a home electronics store, you might be thinking about upgrading. Who wouldn't be tempted to watch Avatar or the Blu-ray versions of the Star Wars films on a fancy new screen?

With the new features available in televisions today, and the fact that screen size is going up while prices are coming down, it may be time for something new.

But don't purchase a new TV unless you really need one. If you rarely watch TV and movies, for example, you might not need a new screen. If you're using your TV to stream music, you're paying for power you don't need to be using.

Bigger's not always better

Make sure you're buying a screen that is appropriate for the space you're in. If you'll be sitting about six feet from the TV, a 60-inch screen is overkill.

Tony Mauro is an engineer with Power Smart, and he's still happy with his 27-inch flatscreen that is about five years old. You might think that's a small TV, but it's the right size for the space that he's in.

"You don't want the TV to take over the living room," he explains in a phone conversation.

If you are replacing an older set, though, make sure that when you're in the store looking at the wonderful, crisp displays, that you're looking at models that have an ENERGY STAR® label.

Energy Star-rated TVs have proved that they use less power, both when in use and when on standby, which not only conserves electricity but saves you money. Any make and model with an Energy Star 5.1 stamp will have similar efficiency rating, says Tony, so you don't need to pay more to get a model that claims to be more efficient.

Get only what you need

Tony warns against chasing features when selecting a television. While 3D televisions are the hot new thing right now, for example, there isn't a lot of 3D programming available. You might spend extra money to get 3D capability and never put it to use.

Down the road, when there is more 3D programming to watch, the 3D televisions will be better, and maybe even cheaper, than they are today.

"Evaluate the features you are thinking of purchasing," says Tony. "Don't buy new technology just because it's new."

Replacing old equipment

New technologies in many televisions have, though, can help you be more efficient by getting rid of older, redundant electronics.

Movie fans can take advantage of a variety of streaming rental services and get rid of those DVD players and VHS machines. That has an added benefit of saving you from having to drive to your neighbourhood rental store, too, Tony explains.

You might actually save – in energy and equipment costs – by spending a bit more on the television.

Watching your new TV

Tony says that what can be more important than the model of television you purchase is how you use your new flatscreen.

Turn off the TV when nobody's watching it, for example. And make sure that all your home entertainment devices are plugged into a power bar so they can easily be powered down when not in use.

Simple changes like that can go a long way to helping you conserve electricity.

Get other tips on how to reduce the power used by your new television at BC Hydro's Green Electronics guide.

Disposing of your old TV

The thing with televisions in recent years is that everybody has old sets they want to get rid of, and everybody wants new, high-definition, flatscreen models. As important as getting that new, beautiful display set up in your home is figuring out what to do with the old one that has to clear out to make space.

So you might not have much success trying to sell your old television, on Craigslist or Kijiji.

But that doesn't mean you can't reuse and recycle.

Reuse

Your early model plasma or LCD might be old to you, but Tony reminds us that when it comes to phasing out electronics, what is important is that the oldest models be removed first.

So if you've got a friend or relative still using one of those big televisions with a tube in it – they are commonly called CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions – consider giving them your old flatscreen, and helping them recycle their old one.

A number of B.C. charities can help find new homes for sets that are in good working condition and are less than 10 years old.

Salvation Army donation centres across the province will accept old televisions. Newer sets and those that can be resold are stocked in the organization's Thrift Stores. Others are collected in partnership with Encorp Pacific.

In Victoria, the Cool Aid Society also takes TVs that they can use in their housing facilities for homeless people in transition. If they don't have a need, they refer potential donors to the Thrift Shop operated by the Beacon Community Society.

The Kelowna Women's Shelter and Thrift Store and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Prince George, which runs a Thrift Store, are two other organizations that will take TVs that are in working condition, and are no more than about ten years old.

There are also Internet resources that connect people who have things to give away with people who want things.

Freecycle has more than 60 groups throughout B.C., where members – registration is free – can list items that they are looking to give away. The idea behind it is that one person's trash is another's treasure, but the catch is that those using Freecycle cannot be selling or trading their goods. They must be offered for free.

Recycle

If your old television was manufactured more than 10 years ago, it is ready for recycling. And it's important, with obsolete electronics, to make sure they are being recycled properly, and aren't going to end up polluting a landfill in a developing country.

Visit your local Return-It Electronics – check locations – for conscience-free recycling of your old TV. Television manufacturers all contribute to the running of the provincial electronics recycling program.

In addition, Samsung Recyling Direct has locations in Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey, and Sony Canada has a national recycling program that includes collection sites in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond and Surrey where TVs can be dropped off.

London Drugs has a comprehensive recycling program in place that includes proper recycling and disposal of your old TV, as well as packaging – including styrofoam – from your new set.

Two B.C. locations of Future Shop – Richmond and Abbotsford – are participating in a new Electronics Take Back program that allows customers to bring common electronics, like TVs, to the store for disposal.

BC Hydro can help

BC Hydro wants to encourage sensible use of electricity, which is why they often provide incentives to assist you in upgrading inefficient electronics. If you're shopping for a TV, check out the current promotions for home electronics.

Blaine Kyllo is a North Vancouver-based freelance writer and regular contributor to bchydro.com.