The Climate Impacts of Your TV: Beyond the Plug

Verena Radulovic, EPA

Verena Radulovic, EPA

By: Verena Radulovic

The great thing about buying an ENERGY STAR certified television is that you can get the latest in high-resolution technology (with all of the great new functionalities), and yet still feel good about the fact that you are contributing fewer greenhouse gas emissions to our environment by using less energy.  In fact, televisions that earn the ENERGY STAR have cut their energy use in half in just the last few years. When you think about all of the TVs sold each year, this clearly means a lot in the fight against climate change.

What you may not realize is that there is a hidden climate change challenge lurking behind the slim-profile, LCD panel technology typical of the most popular televisions on the market today (not to mention computer monitors, tablets, e-readers and smart phones).  It has to do with how they are made.  To etch and clean the glass in these panels, manufacturers use fluorinated gases that are highly effective, but also potent and persistent greenhouse gases.  For example, SF6 (which is used in the etching process) has a global warming potential nearly 23,000 times that of carbon dioxide, meaning SF6 will cause 23,000 times as much warming as an equal amount of carbon dioxide. If these gases are not captured and destroyed during the manufacturing process, they escape into the environment, contributing to climate change.

The good  news is that these gases can be captured and destroyed as part of the manufacturing process.  The process can also be refined so that fewer gases are used in the first place.  Many LCD suppliers have taken significant steps to reduce their emissions of fluorinated gasses. Yet, as worldwide demand for panels continues to increase, emissions are projected to rise unless all suppliers are comprehensively making reductions. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the EPA website.

About the Author: Verena Radulovic develops and manages various product specifications for the ENERGY STAR program, including televisions, displays and audio/video products.

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