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Buying energy-efficient products during the Black Friday shopping season

Green is the new Black

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Author: Chad S. Gallinat, SEAD Awards Working Group Chair

This holiday week will see over 200 million Americans spending tens of billions of dollars by taking advantage of major retailers’ promotional sales for the annual ‘Black Friday’ shopping season. After Christmas, the UK and commonwealth nations will see similar sales during their annual Boxing Day promotions. During these shopping periods, increasing numbers of discounted electronic equipment and appliances are being sold in both the big-box storefronts and online retailers with little to no effort in promoting product energy efficiency. However, there are tools to help purchasers understand and quantify the energy consumption of electronics to further inform their purchases.

The primary objective of the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative is to advance global market transformation toward energy efficient products. To this end, SEAD is engaged in five activities: awards (the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition), procurement, incentives, standards and labeling, and technical analysis. The first three activities focus on mechanisms to increase demand for energy efficient products while the latter two activities support international technical information exchange and analytical platforms for assessing energy savings.

The SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition is a global and regional award program encouraging the production and sale of super-efficient electronic equipment by identifying the most efficient product in each category in four regions, as well as an overall global winner. This competition aims to accelerate efficiency gains in existing technologies and to promote the introduction of new technologies by recognizing both commercially available and emerging technologies. The SEAD Global Efficiency Medals complement existing national and regional efficiency labeling programs (like Energy Star) by highlighting the most efficient product. 

SEAD first considered televisions which account for 3-4% of global residential energy consumption.  In 2012, the first SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition successfully identified the world’s most efficient TVs, which were 22-59% more efficient than models with comparable technology. If all the TVs sold were as efficient as the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal winners, more than 84 terawatt-hours of electricity would be saved worldwide in the year 2020 – equivalent to eliminating the need to build 28 medium-sized coal-fired power plants.

But if we consider the savings potential from the perspective of the consumer, it may be the cost savings of the product that is more relevant. Let’s look at the medium size TV Medal winner from North America (which was also the global winner) in an average American household. Two years ago when the winners were determined, this 40” TV was 33% more efficient than TVs with comparable LED backlit technology and 50% more efficient than conventional LCD TVs. Although this model is no longer on the market (the TV market moves very quickly and specific models are typically only available for 6 months to 1 year!); in September 2012 this TV was priced at $548 while the average TV market price for a similar model was $566. (Yes, the more efficient TV was, in fact, cheaper – another data point helping to dispel the myth that consumers pay a premium for energy efficient products.) In addition to the lower initial cost, the approximated average savings in energy cost over the lifetime of the TV (assuming usage averages of 6 hrs/day over an 8 year life-span and constant average electricity prices) would be $46 (for comparable TV technology) to $97 (in comparison to conventional technology). If we consider that the average American household has 2.2 TVs, the energy savings for replacing inefficient TVs with the most efficient on the market would result in a savings potential between $101 and $213.

The TV example represents just one of many electronic appliances in a typical household. Similar energy efficiency considerations can go into almost every electronic product purchase, and with energy-smart shopping websites like and, the ability to make informed decisions on energy efficient products has never been easier. So before visiting those retailers to take advantage of Black Friday and other holiday promotional sales, take a few minutes to ensure you are buying efficient products, consider the world’s most efficient models as determined by the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competitions, and remember that purchasing energy efficient products is good for both the environment and your bank account.

SEAD Global Efficiency Medal award winning models in North America use 22 to 59 percent less energy than televisions with competing technologies. Source: Values shown in the chart are the average energy performance values of televisions registered in 2012 to three databases (Energy Star, Australia, and Europe) for each size category corresponding to the competition rules.

SEAD is one of 13 ongoing initiatives of the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.

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