Does Leaving The TV On Waste Electricity?

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Everyone has been guilty of leaving the TV turned on when they weren’t watching it at some point in their lives.

Shot of a TV with Live News Channel

Maybe you were watching a show when you decided to go cook dinner, and you left it running for a half hour. Perhaps you even got distracted and ended up doing something else, while the TV continued playing to an audience of none.

And who hasn’t fallen asleep whilst watching TV before?

But how wasteful are these habits? Are they costing us a huge amount due to the electricity being consumed when we aren’t watching, or is it not something we need to worry about?

Let’s find out…

Do TVs use a lot of electricity?

A modern TV will use anything from 28 watts of power up to 134 watts of power, depending on the screen size and the technology of the screen. LED TVs use less power than OLED TVs, which are much brighter and more colorful.

And it’s fairly obvious, but the larger the TV, the more power it uses. A 32-inch LED TV is the kind of model that’ll average at around 28 watts, while a similar-sized OLED TV would use around 57 watts.

For a typical 55-inch TV, you’re looking at around 57 watts for an LED model and 98 watts for an OLED. And if you have your own personal cinema at home with a 75-inch screen, expect to be using around 130-135 watts of power, regardless of whether it’s an LED or OLED screen.

Read more: How Much Electricity Does A TV Use?

Screen Size (inches)LED TVOLED TV

How much electricity does a TV use per hour?

Depending on the screen size and the screen type, a TV will use anywhere between 28 watt-hours per hour, and 134 watt-hours per hour when switched on. The average is around 57 watt-hours per hour.

Now the key question – how much does that cost?

It’s best to always convert watt-hours to kilowatt-hours because that’s how we’re charged for electricity.

To do that, you just divide by 1,000. Let’s stick with just the average TV for now, which uses 0.057 kilowatt-hours of electricity every hour.

The average cost of electricity in the US is $0.14 per kilowatt-hour. That is just an average though, and it varies quite wildly depending on the state you live in. Some are less than that, with a cost per kWh that’s below $0.10. Others are much higher, with Hawaii typically being around the $0.30 mark.

Again, we’ll stick with the average – so at $0.14 per kWh, a typical TV will cost just less than 0.8 cents per hour to run.

To be absolutely clear, that’s not $0.8 or 80 cents – that’s less than 1 cent per hour. So really, TVs aren’t that expensive to run… except that the costs build up over time.

Woman watching TV

Does leaving the TV on when you’re not watching it waste electricity?

Leaving any electrical device switched on when you aren’t using it wastes electricity, so yes, a TV left switched on without being watched is technically wasting electricity. The amount of electricity wasted is usually insignificant but can build up over a long period.

TVs don’t require a significant amount of watts to turn on. Some devices need a bit of a kick-start to get going, but TVs don’t work like that. The main power consumption is in the ongoing use of the screen.

If there was a power surge needed when turning the TV on, it might make sense to leave it on all the time, instead of turning it off every time you leave a room, and turning it back on when you return.

Since that’s not the case, you are always going to save electricity by turning a TV off. It just depends on whether you want to, since the savings will usually be minimal.

There is one other factor at play though – wear and tear. While there’s no great power surge to turn a TV on, it does still require a little more of the processor power to get going. While this won’t have an impact on your electricity bills, there is a chance that it will very slightly decrease the overall lifespan of the TV.

We’re talking fractional amounts, and the same could also be argued for leaving the screen on. Screens, or rather the lights that power them, do eventually wear out.

On balance, it’s impossible to really know how much wear-and-tear you’re putting your TV through by turning it on and off more frequently, versus leaving it on, so it’s best to just judge things purely based on the electricity consumption.

To work out how much electricity you’re wasting, you need to know how much power your TV uses, and how many hours you’re leaving it switched on without watching it.

If we use the average amounts given above, that means for every hour of TV time you’re using 0.8 cents. For 10 hours of unwatched TV, that’s 8 cents you’ve wasted. For 100 hours, that’s 80 cents. And for 1,000 hours, it’s $8.

How much electricity does a TV use if left on all night?

If you leave a TV switched on for 12 hours overnight, assuming an average TV’s electrical consumption you will use 0.684 kilowatt-hours of electricity, at a cost of 9.6 cents based on the average cost of electricity in the US.

Now, let’s play that out over a longer period of time. Say you’re someone who tends to get cozy on the weekend and watch TV, and you accidentally fall asleep watching it – and it becomes a habit. Let’s say that’s your average Friday and Saturday night.

So two nights per week at an average cost of 9.6 cents means you’re wasting 19.2 cents every week. Over the course of a year, that’s $9.98 that you could’ve saved by turning your TV off (or remembering to use the automatic shut-off feature on your remote – every modern TV has it!)

Man holding a remote in front of TV

Now let’s go a step further. What if you’re someone who feels like they need the TV as background noise to help them sleep? Some people find it soothing. So how much does it cost you to leave a TV on all night, 7 nights a week? The answer is 67.2 cents.

It’s even more significant when you then multiply your 9.6 cents a night by the 365 nights a year – that’s a total annual cost of $35.04 just to keep the TV switched on to help you sleep. 

Leaving the TV on all night once or twice a week on the odd occasion isn’t going to be much of a drain on your finances. But $35 a year pays for a lot of things – it’s a trip to the movies, or one less Christmas gift to budget for.

And remember, these are all based on an average 50-inch or 55-inch LED TV. If you have a giant OLED screen, you can more than double these costs – over $70 a year if you want to leave your OLED screen on all the time.

You really shouldn’t though, because that’ll definitely burn out your expensive OLED sooner than needed. There’s also the risk of burn-in, if you leave it on a static image all night.

How much electricity does a TV use when off?

When a TV is left in standby mode it will typically use around 1 watt of power. When turned off at the socket it uses no power at all, even if you leave the plug in the wall – the switch prevents power from being drawn by the TV.

Let’s get into some more stats. Most people don’t switch their TV off at the wall – they rely on standby mode. So that means most people are ‘wasting’ electricity since their TV is drawing power even when you aren’t using it.

But 1 watt is a tiny, tiny amount. Remember that the average cost of electricity in the US is $0.14 for every kilowatt-hour of power used. So a TV would have to be in standby mode for 1,000 hours just to cost you 14 cents. To put it another way, that’s 1 cent for every 71.4 hours of standby time.

And yet…how long are you actually leaving your TV in standby mode?

According to the most recent data, the average American watches just over 2.8 hours of TV per day (source). This means that there are 21.2 hours per day that a TV is being left in standby mode.

Over the course of a typical year, that means the TV is in standby mode for 7,738 hours.

Since we know a TV uses around 1 watt-hour per hour, we know that the total amount of electricity used by a TV just in standby mode is 7.738 kilowatt-hours. Multiply that by $0.14 and we get a total annual cost of $1.08.

Electric bill

Is it better to turn the TV off completely or leave it on standby?

TVs don’t require a significant power spike in order to switch into standby mode, so there is no value gained by leaving a power in standby mode. If it isn’t inconvenient, you will save money by turning your TV off completely.

Obviously, we know from the calculation above that these savings aren’t life-changing. You’re going to save just over $1 a year, on average. What’s the value of a dollar? That depends on your own personal budget.

But remember too that even tiny amounts of electricity have a longer-reaching impact. It’s not just your bills, but also the environmental costs involved in producing electricity in the first place.

It’s believed there are around 122 million TVs in US homes. So while you might only save $1 a year by switching the TV off completely, if everyone did it, that would be 944 million kilowatt-hours of electricity saved by the country.

So if you can, it’s definitely better to turn off your TV completely, even if the personal impact to you isn’t great. You’ll be doing your bit to help reduce the power demand of the nation.

TV in the living room

The Samsung Frame

There are some TVs where ‘switching it off’ doesn’t actually mean turning it off completely. The most famous example is the Samsung Frame.

This is a specialist TV with a unique feature. When you are finished watching the TV and you turn it off, it doesn’t switch to a black screen. Instead, it comes to life with vibrant artwork and photographs.

The idea is that it is a TV for those who hate how a black rectangle can spoil the look of their room. Instead of a huge screen dominating with nothing interesting about it, you can instead enjoy vibrant images that look amazing.

It can even scan the wallpaper in your home, and replicate it, so the TV blends in if you want it to almost completely disappear.

The reason I mention it is because, when in Art Mode, the TV is not really off. And so you’re burning through a lot more electricity than you would be with a regular TV in standby mode.

You should be careful with any TV that has options to let you leave the screen on, whether for a purpose or as a convenience. As you might just be using a lot of unnecessary power.

Read more: Does the Samsung Frame TV Use A Lot of Electricity?

The Bottom Line

TVs are not the most power-hungry devices in your home, but leaving any device switched on when you’re not using it is wasteful.

I’m not saying you should turn it off every time you leave a room for five minutes. If you’re only walking into the kitchen to check on dinner, it’s not worth turning it off to turn it back on again.

But if you know you’re guilty of bad habits, leaving it switched on for hours at a time or even overnight when nobody is watching, you could make some decent savings.

And if you can turn it off completely, instead of leaving it on standby, you may not save much but you’ll be helping lower the overall power demand of the country – and that can only be a good thing.

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