What is Energy Star?
Energy Star is the U.S. government’s standards recommending the use of energy-saving products. Consumers can save electricity bill by purchasing products corresponding it and the government can save budget spent on energy production. It also can reduce CO2 emission as well. Energy Star is not the standard only applies to TV. In terms of power consumption, TV is relatively low among household appliances such as than refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioning. Thus, Energy Star covers these major appliances, and therefore, the coverage is very wide. Only TV-related Energy Star relating trends will be discussed in this column.
The Trends of Steady Strengthening
Energy Star has been steadily strengthened. Makers are making efforts to make products that meet Energy Star standard. Basically, it is the standard only applies to products being sold in the U.S. market, and not forced but in reality, it is not easy to sell from major U.S. retailers without Energy Star label. It is safe to say all the products being sold in the U.S. appliance stores are Energy Star certified products. Therefore, makers have to constantly monitor the update of Energy Star standard. In the direction of TV development, new device such as OLED is emerging, high-quality contents that can appeal to consumers such as 3D, and UD, and QD-using high-definition technology are becoming the conversation topic. However, there always has been the basic development direction required, behind these brilliant technologies; it is the low power-consumption technology.
The Relation between Low Power-Consumption Development and Brightness
Specification such as brightness, which had dealt importantly, seemed to be pushed back in priority for the development of low power-consumption. In the case of brightness, 450~500 nits level LCD panel has been commonly used in TV, but recently, it is being lowered to 300~400 nits level. These numbers also mean the highest brightness and the brightness setting value of general TV, when used in at home, is has fallen from 400 nits level in 3~4 years ago to under 300 nits in recent years (the brightness setting value at stores is typically higher than this because lights of the store is bright and it is general to display by adjusting brightness to the highest to attract the attention of consumers). In the past, one of important specifications of panel or TV has been brightness but in recent years, brightness specification is not specified. A low power-consumption development trend, starting with Energy Star, is what led to these trends. It is difficult to stick to existing high-brightness in order to implement low power-consumption that is getting tighter. It is not necessarily true, but high-brightness tends to be proportional to increasing power-consumption. Especially in the viewing environment of Westerns such as the U.S., which tend to watch TV in a relatively dark environment, high-brightness does not have big impact on the product performance.
At one point, some states of the U.S. had cash rebates in stores selling products meet Energy Star standard. Through the promotion policy, Energy Star was established as the specification to necessarily comply, though not enforced, and consumers also became familiar with the Energy Star mark. Japan had given financial subsidies substantially to consumers through the policy, Eco Points, and China issued the policy that pays subsidy to energy-saving appliances on June 1, 2012 as part of stimulus package following Appliances Going Countryside Program, and Old-for-New Home Appliances policies. Korea is also implementing energy-saving certification policy, but compare to Energy Star, it does not seem tight. Because certification such as Energy Star continues to get stricter and subsidies for countries are being implemented, developers of each brand have to continue to develop products meeting standard that are increasingly tighter.
Current Energy Star Version and the Development Direction of New 6.0 Version
Energy Star currently used in the U.S. market is version 5.3 issued in September 30, 2011. Energy Star is managed and financed by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Since April 2011, the next version, version 6.0, is being developed, and the update will be confirmed in July 2012. The issue of version 6.0 is scheduled to be April 2013. By looking at items proposed on May 16, newly strengthened part can be forecasted and there will be no major changes during the remaining time. Energy Star version 6.0 on TV products is introduced here since the outline is almost clear.
Energy Star version 6.0 vs version 5.3
Energy Star Version 6.0, What will be Changed?
One unique thing about Energy Star, unlike the measure of other countries, is the consideration of ABC (Automatic Brightness Control) feature. Often, ambient light sensor is mounted on TV to increase or decrease power-consumption. This is called ABC feature and if the surroundings are dark, LCD can lower power-consumption by lowering the voltage applied to BLU. Thus, the power consumption of ABC feature-applied TV has been measured by varying ambient light to see if it complies with Energy star in version 5.3.
However, unlike version 5.3, version 6.0 will give a big change in the calculation formula on ABC feature. In the past, it was calculated with the weight after measuring power-consumption when ambient light is 300 lux and 0 lux, but Energy Star version 6.0 will not measure these ambient lights separately, and determines whether ABC feature complies Energy Star or not, with single figure, by simply multiplying 1.1 times. This only recognizes 10% of power-consumption effects on ABC feature; compare to version 5.3, recognizing power-consumption effect is likely to be reduced substantially because with the existing weight calculation, there has been the effect of more than 10%. Therefore, apart from tighter Energy Star, calculation formula in consideration of ABC feature is expected to show big change. Makers need to develop 2013 products to meet the change after familiarizing themselves with the change in measuring criteria.
Calculation Formula on ABC Feature for Energy Star changing in Version 6.0 (42”)
Basically, it is tighter than version 5.3 and some generous figure is applied to ABC feature-using products. It seems to mean if ABC feature is mounted, simply 10% effect will be recognized without bothering calculating with changes in illumination. Thus, as mentioned earlier, version 6.0 will be tighter than existing version on the power-consumption effect of ABC feature.
Energy Star is a certification generally limited to the U.S., but it will also be indirectly related to Europe’s energy consumption label system because they will refer to each other as update. In addition, to promote development efficiency given the influence of the U.S. market, U.S. Energy Star, the tightest standard, should be considered the most in terms of power-consumption.
TV Brightness, Manually Controlled?
Continuing interest is needed on how Energy Star will evolve. The brightness of TV products is steadily in decreasing trends but there will be a limit. Basically, efficiency improvement of LED, the light source, would have been the largest expecting-element for tighter efficiency of Energy Star in the interim. Overall, TV brightness reached too low level. Low power-consumption and brightness seem to have reached the point where they have some tension and balance. Although low power-consumption is an irreversible trend, if consumers feel ‘isn’t TV too dark?’ and set TV brightness themselves, Energy Star standard can be meaningless. For example, if users often watch TV by setting the brightness to the maximum through ‘User Settings’ feature because they feel the default setting value, ‘Home’ setting, is too dark, Energy Star-measuring ‘Home’ setting and ABC feature will be meaningless.
It is basic to measure Energy Star power-consumption specification at the default setting, ‘Home’ setting since many consumers are not active enough to self-adjust those parts. If more and more consumers manually adjust the brightness because they feel TV is too dark, it will serve as a changing factor in the future development direction. Due to these aspects, the need for high-transmittance panel development technology that improves the aperture ratio of LCD panel will not subside and overall need of high-brightness BLU has possibility to increase depending on development level of panel technology. Energy Star version 6.0 might have become stingier on ABC feature because it figures consumers are increasingly using ‘User Setting’ on their own for the brightness.