EPA unveils new Energy Star specs for monitors

Improving technology prompts agency to create more stringent requirements

The Department of Environmental Protection is tightening the requirements for computer monitors to qualify for an Energy Star label, noting the increasing use of energy efficient LED technology and methods that focus light on the person in front of a monitor.

About 45% of all PC monitors made today qualify for an Energy Star label under the current requirements, which were created about four years ago. Less than 25% of PC monitors sold today would meet the new 5.0 specifications, which take effect in October, the EPA said.

The Energy Star program is voluntary unless vendors sell to the U.S. government, which requires that any products it buys carry the label. The government purchases around 700,000 monitors a year, according to an EPA estimate.

Christopher Kent, an EPA Energy Star specification development manager, said the agency sets the rating criteria with the expectation that 25% of products will qualify for an Energy Star label. A compliance market share at 45% "is sort of beyond where Energy Star feels comfortable being," he said.

The new Energy Star specification applies only to those monitors manufactured after the change takes effect.

The new ratings for LCD monitors will produce energy savings around 20% from the existing specification, the EPA estimates. A 19-inch monitor with a display of 1280x1024 or 1.3 megapixels will have maximum power consumption of about 22.8 watts if it meets the new criteria. The EPA has made changes in how it calculates usage, but under version 4.0 of the Energy Star standard the limit is 36.4 watts for a similar 19-inch monitor.

Lower power consumption will also be helpful for those users turning to larger 24" monitors as well as the use of dual monitors. .

The EPA can upgrade the requirements due to a variety of changes, including a shift by monitor manufacturers to LED backlighting from cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) lighting, said Norbert Hildebrand, an analyst at Insight Media Inc., which covers the monitor market.

It's not just the shift to LEDs from fluorescent lights that is boosting monitor efficiency. Vendors are also using technologies that reuse light that is reflected internally in the monitor, as well as film technologies. "You don't want people two desks over seeing light from the monitor," said Hildebrand.

Doug Johnson, a senior director, technology policy, at the Consumer Electronics Association, said the Energy Star criteria "achieves market transformation in a way that does not impede innovation."

In recent years, the EPA has moved its Energy Star program deeper into the data center by developing specifications for servers and other IT systems.

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