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Kai Ryssdal: All across America tonight millions of people -- at almost the same time and with almost the same set of motions -- are going to do something that's really bad for the planet. We're going to pick up the clicker, we're going to plop down on the living room couch and we're going to turn on our big-screen TVs to watch the World Series. Those things draw power just as bad and the big ones maybe worse than refrigerators and washing machines -- appliances that are required to have stickers on them telling you exactly how much energy they use. So, now, the Federal Trade Commission says maybe it's time for TVs -- the big ones -- to have energy labels too.
From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.
Eve Troeh: The average 34-inch TVs of a few years ago are like chihuahuas compared to today's 60-inch Great Danes. And like a Great Dane, those big TVs eat more. They gobble electricity.
David Katzmaier: From 10 to 25 percent of a household's energy use is dependent on the television and surrounding peripherals, like the cable box and game consoles and stuff like that.
David Katzmaier reviews TVs for CNET. He says most consumers buy a TV for the picture quality; energy's not even a factor. A quick survey on the streets of New York shows he's right.
Woman 1: Energy? Um... no.
Man 1: Zero, zero energy usage.
Man 2: No, I never really thought too much about the energy. I kind of assume everything's energy efficient, but I don't really look I guess.
Starting in May, it'll be hard to switch off information about how much energy your TV uses. Every new set will sport a big yellow tag with the cost to power it for a year. Websites that sell TVs will also have to provide that information.
David Katzmaier at CNET says that probably won't stop anyone bent on buying a gargantuan plasma screen, the biggest energy suckers. But annual energy costs could influence people choosing between TVs that are about the same size and quality.
Katzmaier: Even if it is only a difference of say $20 to $30 a year, that might be actually be enough to get you to decide to get the more efficient one.
When you consider that Americans now have an average of three TVs per household, and that they're on about eight hours a day, the new FTC tags do have potential to change the picture.
I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.