No Delay for Digital TV: Here's How to Prepare

Learn how to upgrade or get rid of your old sets in an environmentally-responsible way.

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Congress voted yesterday against delaying the transition to digital TV, despite the fact that many people have not received coupons to purchase equipment for the switch and will be left without a signal come Feb. 17. More than three million people are still on a waiting list to receive a coupon for a digital converter box after the program that subsidized the funds has come up short.

This news may inspire may people to throw away their old analog TV set in favor of a newer model, which presents environmental problems - old TVs that will still work, with the proper modifications, will be disposed of irresponsibly, while newer, energy-sucking TV sets will be purchased in their place. Here's how to manage the digital transition in an eco-friendly way.

  • You don't have to buy a new TV if: 1) You subscribe to cable or satellite TV, or 2) You rely on an antenna, but have a digital tuner in your TV. Cable or satellite subscribers will still receive all of their regular channels no matter how old their TV is. A TV with a digital tuner won't need any additional equipment - and if your TV was made within the last few years, you're probably in good shape. Check the manual. If you don't fit into either of these categories you will have to buy a converter box, subscribe to cable, or buy a new TV.
  • Digital converter boxes are way cheaper than buying a new TV. They range from $40-$70. If you already have a decent TV that you're satisfied with and want to save cash, buy the converter. I wrote a review of the digital converter/digital antenna experience last year.
  • When you choose a converter box, aim for one that is Energy Star rated. Energy Star has provided a roundup of the qualified boxes here.
  • If you're buying a new TV, you should also look for Energy Star sets. A list of qualified televisions is here.
  • Also, think about getting an LCD screen instead of a plasma screen. Plasma screens use twice as much energy - so much, that the state of California is considering a ban.
  • If you get a new TV, adjust the power settings to conserve energy. Use a power strip designed to prevent vampire power from being consumed when the TV is not in use.
  • Get rid of your old analog TV in a responsible way - don't put it on the curb with the trash. TVs are full of chemicals that leach into groundwater when they go to landfills, so peruse this list for the best tech recycling option for you.