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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 18:17 UK

Save energy - just look away now

by Marc Cieslak
BBC Click

New television with face detection
Manufacturers are developing new and ingenious ways to save energy

The 21st Century home is packed to the rafters with electrical devices, from labour-saving kit in the kitchen to widescreen TVs and computers.

Even the simple act of illuminating our homes requires power.

Some of the major manufacturers at the Japanese technology fair Ceatec suggest that alternative energy sources like wind and solar power could become commonplace as wind turbines and solar panels become cheaper.

But short of pulling the plug and switching off our creature comforts, reducing the amount of energy we use seems to be the goal of the big players.

Pretty much all of the consumer kit is making claims to be more energy efficient, but manufacturers are coming up with more ingenious solutions.

One particular TV set is fitted with a small camera and equipped with facial recognition software.

It is looking for a viewer's full face looking at the screen.

The current crop of energy efficient bulbs has disappointed because they take an awfully long time to warm up

If the viewer looks away from the screen for a couple of seconds the image slowly fades out but the audio continues to play.

If they turn back to the screen, the image immediately returns.

TV sets require an awful lot more electricity to create pictures than they do sound, so when turned away from the screen, energy is being saved.

This TV and face recognition software are the brainchild of engineers at Hitachi and so far it remains at prototype stage but has been trumped by Sony - which already has similar technology fitted to a production TV.

You might think that features like this are no more than a gimmick, but it does help highlight the more serious green credentials of televisions.

Full brightness

New LCD screens are benefiting from a more efficient back lighting which uses half of the electricity of rival LCD TVs.

Lights display
LED lighting is seen as a greener alternative to incandescent bulbs

In the quest for more energy efficiency in the home, even the humble light bulb has come to the attention of eco-tinkering engineers.

The current crop of energy efficient bulbs has disappointed because they take an awfully long time to warm up and achieve full brightness.

So it seems like the light emitting diode (LED) could really come into its own.

Until now, LED light bulbs have remained something of a rarity as a result of the bulbs sky-high price tag.

The manufacturers of the latest generation of LED lamps, about to be launched in Japan, claim they are eight times more efficient than old-style incandescent and have up to a 19-year lifespan - 40 times longer then a common or garden bulb.

Individual LEDs are clustered inside the bulb and the quality of light they produce is bright and the lamps are dimmable.

The only downside to these bulbs is the cost - currently at around $40 (£25) each.

Kind to the planet? Yes, but definitely not kind to the wallet.

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