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LCD vs. Plasma: Which TV is Best for the Environment?

written by: Jennifer Claerr•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 4/9/2011

Both LCD and plasma TVs have benefits and disadvantages in terms of their features. However, which one is best for the environment? Find out which TV is the greenest and will save you the most money on your electric bill over time.

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    Widescreen LCD and Plasma Flat Panel TV Features

    Plasma and LCD widescreen flat panel TVs have become very popular for watching digital television and high definition television (HDTV). Both of these TVs have definite advantages and disadvantages in terms of screen size, picture quality and viewing angle. However, when you're considering which type of flat panel TV is best for the environment, power consumption is the most important feature to consider. An energy efficient, green flat panel television will not only help save the planet, it will save you a lot of money on electricity over the long term. The components used to manufacture plasma and LCD televisions are important. You'll also have to consider how long the television lasts, since having to throw out your old flat panel set and replace it will have a significant impact on the environment.

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    Plasma and LCD Widescreen Flat Panel TVs - Environmental Pros and Cons

    While certain plasma TVs use less energy than older CRT television sets, they are hardly energy efficient. Also, some large screen plasma TVs over 50 inches consume as much as four times the power of a CRT television. However, there are some plasma TVs as large as 64.7 inches that have qualified for an Energy Star rating. Also, many plasma televisions contain lead, although Panasonic has eliminated lead from their plasma televisions. Plasmas have a bad reputation for having a short operational lifespan. This has improved over time, however, and today the average lifespan of a plasma television is between 50,000 to 60,000 hours. Although it's less common in newer models, plasma televisions may suffer from burn-in if a static image is allowed to remain on the screen for long periods of time, increasing the chances that components within the plasma television or the entire TV might need to be replaced.

    LCD televisions are typically more energy efficient per square inch than plasma TVs. However, this doesn't mean you can buy any LCD TV and expect it to be green. Many large-screen LCD televisions over 50 inches are nearly as bad at wasting electricity as plasma TVs. LCDs aren't a huge environmental winner when it comes to components, since they often contain mercury. Also, the greenhouse gas nitrogen trifluoride is used in the manufacture of LCD TVs. However, there are far more LCD TVs than plasmas that have been certified by Energy Star, including some models as large as 70 inches. LCD TVs also include LED backlit models, which are more energy efficient and thus greener than models backlit with a fluorescent lamp.

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    Which is Greener: LCD or Plasma?

    The competition between plasma and LCD flat panel TVs is tough, but ultimately LCD wins the contest. Even though both plasma and LCD TVs contain potentially toxic components, the fact remains that both types of televisions can last 20 years or longer and can be disposed of or recycled in an environmentally responsible fashion. No matter what type of plasma TV you buy, you will inevitably end up using more power than an LCD TV. When choosing between a new plasma or LCD flat panel television, the best thing you can do for the environment is to invest in a moderately sized, LED-backlit LCD TV with Energy Star certification and hold onto it for as long as possible.