Believe it or not, improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t require an advanced energy science degree. It’s really just a matter of being more aware of choices and recognizing whether they save or waste energy. Individually, some energy-wasting practices might not amount to much, but when you add them all together, you’ll gain a better picture of how how much you could save. To help you live Live Brighter, our “Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home” series will showcase ways you can lower your home energy usage and possible reduce your monthly energy bill.
Energy Efficiency in the Home Theater
Creating a media room for your home can provide hours of incredible entertainment. Not only can they be on par with small movie theater experiences, but you can also expand this home theater setup to work with internet videos, game consoles, and satellite systems. But while all of that sounds fantastic, you can very easily wind up with a big stack of energy-hungry components that could add unnecessary expenses to your monthly electric bill.
So, how can you build, own, and operate an energy-efficient media room in your home that won’t jack up your energy usage? By planning for it, of course!
This one is simple: invest in an EnergyStar qualifying TV. This doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a puny screen that you’ll need to watch with a telescope. Far from it — many 60” televisions do qualify. Interestingly enough, during some recent comparison shopping, the two main things that eat up power in new flat-panel (LCD, LED, & OLED) televisions are audio outputs greater than 10 watts and standby power.
Don’t see any plasma screens on that list? Sadly, the main reason is that plasma TVs stopped being made around 2014.
The Surround Sound
This amplifier / receiver is the core component of your surround sound system. It’s designed to power between 5 and 9 individual speakers, as well as serve as the hub for all your HDMI cables hubs. As in, you route all your audio and video signals from your game systems, cable box, media streaming devices, and computers through the amplifier to your television.
However, if you want to be able just watch the news without having to turn on your surround sound amp that draws 240 watts, then you need an amp with HDMI pass-through capability or HDMI switcher that will let you select what AV signals go in the amp.
This can become pretty tricky since new HMDI specs emerge periodically, so pay careful attention that the components you selecting will be HDMI compatible with each other.
This device is a separately powered amplified speaker that take care of the low end and subsonic sound. You’ll want a subwoofer that compliments the sound from the surround sound amp and works well with the architecture of your media room.
However, since subwoofers have their own rate of power consumption, one of the tricks to owning one is to remember to turn it off when you power down the surround amplifier. Linking the two to the same power strip or smart outlet ensures you can take better control over forgetting to turn things off and eliminate standby power consumption.
The Other Boxes
You probably have many more machines in your media room: sound bars, Blu-ray players, game consoles, computers, DVR/cable boxes, streaming media devices, and maybe the odd VCR. Left plugged in all the time for “convenience,” they all nibble a small amount of electricity so that they will be ready for use.
Otherwise known as phantom load or zombie / vampire power, standby power is the concept that, though each device uses a small amount of energy on its own, when you add up the stuff plugged into the television, surround sound amp, and subwoofer, it collectively turns into the equivalent of a 20 to 40 watt light bulb you leave turned on all the time.
Sure, no media room geek wants to sacrifice performance, but keeping your system energy efficient will help offset its cost. I’ve already mentioned smart outlets, but there are also smart power strips that work by sensing the power draw from a master device, such as the television. When that power usage falls to standby levels, the strip’s controller turns off power to that plug.
One More Thing
Keep electronic devices away from sources of heat, especially heating vents, spaces heaters, and prolonged exposure of direct sunlight. Electronics create heat when they’re being used, and when they can’t keep their cool, not only do they use more energy, but they also increase the thermal resistance in their components, which shortens their lifespan.
Do you have any other tips on how to create an energy-efficient media room or home theater for your home? Share with us in the comments!
High electric bills getting you into a lather? Stay tuned as Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home enters the Laundry Room! We’ll help you clean up your energy act!