Ask G

Ask G: Digital television and analog TVs

The transition to a digital television signal shouldn't mean unncessary waste and spending

With the upcoming digital television wave I am told we need to buy a new high definition TV (currently we are making do with our analog TV and a digital set top box), but I can't seem to find any definitive simple answer as to which is greener: plasma or LCD.

Also, I am cranky that we have to throw out our perfectly good analog TV and video recorder, and am concerned that choosing plasma or LCD will cause our power use to rise dramatically. We have already found that our set top box cannot be turned off at the wall. Is there any hope?

- Karen Gurton

Digital set top box

Set top boxes mean you won't have to ditch your trusty analog TV, VCR or DVD recorder once the "digital revolution" hits.

Credit: iStockphoto

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Lets begin with some good news: while the change to digital between 2010 and 2013 means that analog TV signals will be switched off, this does not mean that you have to throw your analog TV away.

Your current television set will be able to be used right up until its dying day with the use of your digital set top box, which will allow the TV to receive the new digital signals. Though you will not be able to watch in high definition, the image quality will still be fine.

If, however, your old television kicks the bucket between now and then, or you decide to upgrade, you will need a television with an in-built digital tuner.

The good news is that the energy efficiency of new plasma and LCD televisions is on the increase, particularly as we move towards mandatory energy labelling and star ratings for TV in October of this year.

As a general rule, LCDs tend to be more energy efficient than plasmas. But be aware that this can vary between companies and models - some plasma screens are huge energy guzzlers, others use very low energy.

Many manufacturers are already beginning voluntary labelling of their TVs, so if you do decide to buy a new set, be on the look out for these.

As for your VCR, you should also be able to continue using this with your analog TV through the set top unit.

The same goes if you have a DVD player/recorder. However, if you end up upgrading your TV, you will still need a set top box connected to a DVD recorder in order to record new content (though not to watch stuff you already have), or otherwise you will need to purchase a new recorder with an inbuilt digital tuner.

While you are able to turn the TV and recording devices off at the wall to cut stand-by energy use, some set top boxes have to be left plugged in (like those also used to receive pay TV channels) for software upgrades. Check with the manufacturer to learn about precautions for turning these off at the switch.