Should CHOICE reviews place more emphasis on energy efficiency?

Today I read in February Choice: But if you are after a larger TV, you can still find models that use less energy. For example, we found three 65-inch TVs that cost at least $100 less to run each year than the energy-hungry example below.

Least energy-efficient

Samsung QA65Q80AAW

  • RRP: $2670
  • Display size: 65 inches
  • Annual running cost: $223*

Yet this very model was RECOMMENDED by Choice a few months ago! Just adds to my suspicion that Choice reviews of electronic devices should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Why do I pay them money I ask myself?

A Recommendation includes many other factors aside from energy consumption. If you want a service like Choice to score its results according to your personal criteria I don’t think that is possible for everybody.

Because as well as summary statistics like Recommendation you get all the details in one place. If you want a big TV but don’t want to pay for high energy consumption you have the option to exclude or include whichever model you like on that basis.

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Yet the high power consumption WAS NOT LISTED among the negative points. My criticism remains in this age of increasing energy prices AND the need to limit CO2 emissions. Surely it is not beyond the wit of Choice to add a column to its review of powered products and measure power consumption while powered and while on standby. Now that would be REALLY USEFUL to your paying members. There seems to be VERY LITTLE environmental consciousness among reviewers - witness the recent review of kitchen cling wraps were NONE OF THE COMPOSTABLE WRAPS were recommended! Time to lift your game IMO.

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I am confused. However the online and print editions are not always congruent in what is published, but the online TV reviews, when one selects models to compare, has the following line - randomly selected.

The 3 randomly selected are different screen sizes, and that is evident in the model selection criteria, but what other information are you looking for? Not having a print on hand, is this missing from that? If so, perhaps Choice could take it on board to improve that format, but they are not ignoring it.

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The review I looked at online has that data. Are you saying that the one you saw does not have the data or that the format was too hard for you to use?

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I myself saw the comparison of kitchen wraps. Yes, none of the compostable wraps were recommended. Simply because they did NOT do the job I want it to do! The best wrap I have used that is compostable is paper. I will next consider newspaper for my kitchen wrap as that is most certainly compostable and eminently eco friendly since it has previously been used.

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Having tried three of the compostable kitchen wraps myself I suspect that the differences in performance (mainly their ability to cling to itself) is quite minor. This is my main criticism of the ACA - it placed FAR TO MUCH emphasis on convenience to the customer and FAR TOO LITTLE on environmental sustainability at a time when the world faces MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS. IMO the ACA should be educating consumers that minor inconveniences are tolerable if they make the world a better place, rather than, well it only does 90% of the job, so we won’t recommend it until it does 100% of the job. TIME IS RUNNING OUT ACA!

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I am saying that the data is BURIED IN THE FINE PRINT. The fact that the Samsung had THE HIGHEST ENERGY CONSUMPTION should have been listed in the negative points.

So the format and emphasis does not agree with your view of the significance of one particular characteristic of TVs. There are probably many with similar views. The trouble is that there is no certainty you all agree on which characteristic needs greater prominence. Clearly you cannot add emphasis and prominence to everything because then you emphasise nothing. Different people live different lives and have different priorities.

I do not think that the fact that you had to go looking for the data that is important to you is a reason to declare that Choice reviews are untrustworthy.

From the Oxford English Dictionary

trustworthy, a.

(ˈtrʌstˌwɜːðɪ)

[f. trust n. + worthy a.]

Worthy of trust or confidence; reliable.

The evidence to me is that Choice is a trustworthy source of data in its reviews of goods and if you have to take a little more time to find what you want does not make it otherwise. So in answer to the question in the title I say “Yes”.

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On receipt of the print issue, the table shows

image

Consumers interested in efficiency/cost of operation have ‘Energy use score (%)’ as well as the other characteristics. While it is true energy has not been called out explicitly in the summaries it is included. A question is would someone buy a 55 inch TV in lieu of an 85 inch because of energy use, or would they buy a more efficient 75 inch with an inferior picture than a less efficient 75 inch with a better picture?

Since everyone has their own priorities and values, and because information is included, I’ll second that

and

I agree.

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My understanding of what you, @douglaspaine, are asking for us is a carbon friendly rating of electricity usage of TVs or indeed of any product. Is that correct?

Or are you asking that more weighting be given to energy usage? Currently this is set at 5% of the score, what area or areas should be diminished to give it greater weight and by how much should the weightings be adjusted?

Or is it simply that if a product has excessive electricity usage that this feature is always marked as a negative?

The difficulty being perhaps how to define excessive. The usage between the unit you describe and the next is about $50 per year or $1 per week or in terms of kWh used about 570 Wh per day or 14 cents a day. For many this would pale into the not important, but I agree for others it would be a breaking point. In fairness to CHOICE, CHOICE have given the members and others who can obtain the results the means to compare both in terms of dollars and actual usage figures. Neither of these are hidden in fine print, they are declared clearly in the test results.

A thought about electricity usage that I am pondering …Is it a negative result if electricity usage is higher than other TVs but the visual and other experiences of using the device are better than others as well due to that? In fact could that be asked of any device? So if say a washing machine washes clothes 20% better but it uses 10% more electricity is that performance vs cost better or worse. If a washer doesn’t clean clothes well and so a subsequent wash is required but it uses less electricity each wash but in total needs more electricity should it’s individual wash electricity usage be a pro not a con or is it better to consider that the usage vs effective washing is more important?

I guess that is why electricity usage receives in the case of TVs, a 5% weighting. I also have looked at the comparison and others in the recommended list receive marks in the electricity usage in the 70% percents (some better than 75%) and the TV @douglaspaine has referred to only gathers a 64%, again not a hidden figure. Overall most of the recommended were rated much higher than this unit in overall scores. Perhaps it remains a recommended badge because in past reviews it had been but now as things have advanced has fallen into a lower bracket.

Another thought is that the badge may have remained in error, I believe this had occurred in another product review where a recommended badge had remained but the product no longer remained in the recommended bracket of results. This as a result of the web page production and was addressed when reported.

I’m in agreement with some others who have responded in this topic, I don’t see how that a CHOICE review that lists the details honestly and clearly is somehow not to be trusted. Often I have to weigh up the differences between different recommended models to suit my preferences that balance some things more heavily than others might. If only the percentage result mattered then why would others choose anything but the highest score, we don’t just choose the best every time exactly because we all have individual preferences. CHOICE provides the means for us to make those decisions knowing that the results are independent and trust worthy.

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Thank you grahroll for your considered and detailed response. What I am asking for is that the policy makers at ACA REVIEW the weightings that are given to consumer products in light of the need to act urgently on all consumer activities that affect GHG emissions. IMO an increased weighting for power consumption from the miserable 5% to perhaps 30% would be a good start. To take the specific case of washing machines you mention, I think many people would be prepared to purchase a washing machine that removed 20% less soiling if it used 20% less electricity and 20% less water safe in the knowledge that their sacrifice in personal appearance was contributing to a better world. One major source of pollution of concern is the micro plastic fibres that are discharged in the laundry water every time a polyester or nylon fabric is washed. Some manufacturers are now including microfilters in their washing machines to address this source. Choice should be pro-active IMO and run articles highlighting this innovation and educating consumers about the need for innovations like this rather than putting so much weight on the 1960s marketing advocation for shirts to be ‘whiter than white’ Likewise with washing detergents that have a major impact on pollution. It matters not IMO if a washing detergent removes 20% less dirt if it adds 20% more phosphate into our waterways after treatment. And while a saving of $1 a week in power bills may not seem important to many people, it is the saving of LOTS of little fossil CO2 molecules being emitted that go with that $1 over 25 million Australians that adds to humanity’s efforts to address the climate crisis. Most educated commentators, from Angela Merkel to David Attenborough agree that there is an urgent need for everyone in developed countries to rethink how they can assist in addressing what is AN EMERGENCY and I would like ACA to have a BIG RETHINK on how it weights consumer products from an environmental perspective if I am going to continue supporting it financially. I don’t resile from my original question - it seems to have got the attention of some people who might be able to make a change at ACA.

Those who have responded thus far are not involved in the policy making of CHOICE. I can say that as moderators some of us have closer ties to the administrators of the site but again not to policy decisions. Your request for how things are weighted in reviews will be seen by CHOICE staff who do have input to that policy making process.

Everyone has to review their carbon based energy use, not all of us use carbon fuelled energy and some choose devices that while they may use more energy do so for reasons of allergies, work conditions and so on. Your individual choices are made in light of your needs and wants, as are my choices. That doesn’t make either of them less valid and I hope your concerns can be accommodated if possible, they may not reach the level you require. If that failure to reach your level of desired weighting occurs, then your decision to terminate your membership of CHOICE is absolutely your right to do so. Your support of the organisation will be missed I’m sure if you did choose to leave, but you have to make the decisions that best resonate with your beliefs.

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There’s a diversity of views across the community. As consumers we can all make informed choices, providing we have the facts relevant to our needs.

What is the total accumulated carbon footprint or cost of a product at the point of sale, what is the disposal cost of the product, and how for long will it deliver the expectations/service expected? Is judging a product purely on energy consumption when in use the only consideration? We can make an informed decision about the GHG emissions, of the energy used in the home, especially if we purchase low carbon electricity, or have solar PV+…. Can we make the best decision for the planet purely on energy consumption post purchase?

A more complex question is whether purchasing products manufactured in a particular nation, is furthering that nations progress to lower emissions or encouraging greater emissions?

I’m happy that Choice provides for most of my needs in it’s reviews. Yes, I’d appreciate a green rating of a product based on the cradle to grave footprint. Realistically it’s a lesser priority than many other actions.

Hypothetically!
In comparison with Australia’s total GHG emissions, are there other priorities that deserve greater attention than relatively small differences in energy required to run a TV? It’s a different discussion and topic. Although if we were really concerned about the energy footprint of our TV’s - would we shut down all broadcast services, move to on line streaming, and use a low powered tablet device instead of a TV? Ideally only charging the tablet device during the day from low cost solar PV. Smaller screens use less power. There is sufficient content in the Choice reviews and from manufacturers specifications to make that alternate decision, assuming it meets needs.

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I’m glad that will happen - if it does, I’ve achieved my aim. Thank you. Is there a more direct route to provide feedback to CHOICE staff who do have input to that policy making process?

The focal contact emails, form, and phone numbers are shown on the Choice contact us page

There are also links to the Choice FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts via the links at the bottom of Choice’s web page.

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Choice staff often peruse posts in the community, and @BrendanMays/@jhook let their fellow colleagues know of anything which may be of interest to them.

If you are a member of Choice and live in or near Sydney, there is opportunity to visit the Choice facilities at Marrickville, attend the AGM or Community Forum. Often meeting decision-makers face to face is more effective than online activities.

In relation to green credentials of products, it is very complex and more than just energy use. It includes all potential environmental impacts from what is called cradle to grave. Focusing on one particular criteria can significantly bias results, and example being a low energy use product could result in irreversible significant environmental impacts during production or have very high embodied energy which negates low consumer energy use. Getting an understanding of cradle to grave is far more than Choice could ever achieve and would require intergovernmental (international) and industry cooperation.

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Thank you. I am well aware of what you say as I gave lectures to fourth year university students here in Melbourne on the circular economy and sustainability. I am well aware of the complexities. That said, energy consumption of electrical products and biodegradability of textiles and other domestic consumables are the two main aspects of products that consumers have power to influence through purchase decisions and I firmly believe Choice can have a better influence in these area.

As a former university lecturer I’m sure you could advise of a lot of other important things that need to be considered as well as energy consumption.

So perhaps rather than just looking at the amount of energy a TV uses, you could advise us what needs to be considered to reduce the environmental footprint than just energy usage. Things may include shipping and other transport (China vs Korea, vs Thailand etc); how is their energy generated (fossil vs renewable vs damming etc); where do the raw products come from (local or imported from Australia); do they use indentured or forced labour, etc.

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The Pareto Principle applies here meltam - you usually get 80% of the result for 20% of the effort. CO2 emissions from transport of white goods from China, Thailand, South Korea and other countries commonly manufacturing them is usually less than 10% of the CO2 emitted by the power consumption during the life of the product, so it is irrelevant. The same is true of CO2 emitted during manufacture. Whether the parts used in manufacture are produced by indentured labour is something even major corporations in the West have difficulty discovering, so what chance does the average consumer have? And a full life cycle analysis of and product cradle to grave is a major undertaking performed.by specialist organisations who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to third party companies that specialise in assessing the manufacturing and ancillary operations of different manufacturers and sectors around the world. The cost of a reputable life cycle analysis taking everything into consideration is beyond the resources of even medium sized companies let alone all but the very richest individuals. SO, A FLAT NO! As I said in my previous posts, if Choice and consumers focus on energy usage of electrical goods and biodegradability of consumables they can get 80% of the result a full detailed life cycle analysis can achieve PLUS hurt manufacturers that pay no attention to these factors where it hurts by. denying them sales. End of.