EPA Considering More Stringent Brightness Controls On Energy Star TVs
Those concerned with how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) work on the Energy Star 8.0 standard for television energy consumption will impact next-generation 4K Ultra HDTVs and HDTVs have until Wednesday to submit comments before the measure moves to the final draft process.
Among considerations under review are putting non-defeatable automatic brightness controls (ABCs) in all or all-but-one picture mode in a television set, which could have ramifications for the flexibility TV purchasers will have in calibrating picture settings for optimal picture quality under specific room lighting conditions.
The EPA is also looking at the next set of energy consumption criteria for 4K Ultra HDTVs and high dynamic range (HDR), after receiving feedback from environmental watch dog groups who want the current level of energy use by such systems scaled back. The issue puts environmentalists at odds with some set manufacturers striving to achieve brighter and brighter HDR TV sets as the technology evolves.
One good note for picture quality fans is that it appears that the EPA is prepared to wait a bit longer on any requirements for 4K Ultra HDTVs and HDR as they study the market to get a better idea of what the actual impact is.
Jeff Joseph, senior vice president of communications and strategic relationships for the Consumer Technology Association, said Monday that “requiring that all energy savings features, including Automatic Brightness Control, persist across all preset picture modes puts the EPA squarely in the business of designing TVs. Only TV manufacturers have the experience, expertise, and user input to make such decisions related to the performance of their preset picture modes and all functionality of their products. If ABC is enabled by default in all preset picture modes, these modes will likely look very similar, if not identical. More, the requirement is completely unnecessary since consumers already receive a message that the TV is not in its best energy savings mode when ABC is disabled.”
Read more on the EPA’s next criteria for Energy Star for televisions after the jump:
Documentation for the on-going Energy Star 8.0 development process indicates the agency has received comments from environmental watch dog groups looking to prevent automatic brightness controls (ABCs) from being turned off when a set owner makes adjustments to a TV’s picture. Those parties have asked for language that such controls be part of all of a TV’s default picture mode settings, with the possible exception of retail showroom mode, where settings are unnaturally bright to sell televisions on brightly lit sales floors.
“Based on stakeholder requests that all Preset Picture Settings have ABC enabled and since at least one manufacturer is already doing so, EPA is considering requiring that TVs with ABC enabled by default have only one or no Preset Picture Setting without ABC enabled by default,” EPA materials indicate.
The EPA is also considering input by the watch dog groups that TV manufacturers be required to test television energy consumption using clips that are more representative of everyday viewing conditions, instead of prior EPA-approved test clips that some say did not vary enough from shot to shot. The old test material was claimed to enable set makers to produce sets that could be easily optimized to pass the test while continuing to consume large amounts of electricity in the real world. Most TV makers have denied the allegations.
Until new standardized test material is developed, the EPA is considering requiring TV markers to test televisions for energy consumption using material the set makers select to be more representative of real-world viewing samples. The EPA has offered to consult with the TV makers on that testing before each model is submitted for certification.
As for HDR, the EPA said three stakeholders supported HDR upscaling tests and suggested that the results be made public by model. Requests were made that the EPA add requirements for native HDR content and HDR upscaling in the next specification revision.
The EPA said it supports stakeholder efforts to develop an updated test clip that addresses scene cut frequency and is more representative of the HDR-encoded (and native 4K) content increasingly being watched by purchasers of new televisions. Meanwhile, the agency requests stakeholder feedback on how to best account for varying degrees of implementation of HDR upscaling features.
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Regarding assertions made that 4K Ultra HDTVs on average consume 13 percent more power than HDTVs, the EPA said it will continue to monitor the market and will consider making additional for 4K in the next specification revision.
As for brightness levels in standard dynamic range (SDR) displays, the EPA originally proposed 150 nits (43.7 foot lamberts) as a minimum for screen brightness in a dim (“3 lux”) room.
Some set manufacturers suggested that “instead of a minimum brightness, define a ratio of luminance in the 3 lux illuminance condition to luminance in the brightest selectable picture setting. They also requested that the EPA allow a tolerance to account for luminance deviations caused by each module’s brightness and light sensor.”
In response, the EPA said it “has reduced the requirement to 125 [nits] from 150 [nits]” and “proposed the minimum screen luminance of 125 [nits] is to balance Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) information with stakeholder feedback.”
The EPA said it conducted consumer tests with six subjects using four LCD TVs and one OLED TV in which back light levels were manually adjusted in the real world preset picture setting from default to minimum and maximum with ABC off in a room with 3 lux ambient illuminance levels. The test clip was a two-minute excerpt from a Planet Earth II UHD Blu-ray disc containing a wide range of average picture levels.
The study found that “users prefer luminance levels significantly higher than the luminance that many TVs currently deliver with ABC enabled in a dark room. The average preferred luminance level among the test subjects was ~200 [nits] (58.2 foot lamberts).”
For comparison, 43 foot lamberts is the generally ideal luminance level cited by ISF for dim room viewing when calibrating a television display.
The EPA is also considering notifying consumers when changes are made to picture settings that higher energy consumption will result.
The EPA said it received comments from stakeholders that some TVs “encourage users to pick a non-EnergyStar certified preset pictures setting. The DOE’s Test Method requires the TV to enable the most energy consumptive features if consumers are provided with a prompt or information on whether to select them. However, this requirement in the Test Method only applies when a user is prompted during the TV set up, not where guidance is issued elsewhere in the menu system after the TV has already been configured.”
The EPA said it “is considering adding a requirement that would prohibit language that encourages the user to switch to a non-certified Preset Picture Setting or disable an energy saving feature.”
The EPA is accepting comments on the developments in the next Energy Star television criteria on May 24th. Comments can be submitted at [email protected]. The EPA develop a final draft of EnergyStar 8.0 next month, before finalization in July. The specification will then take effect in March/April 2018.
By Greg Tarr
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