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Missing the magic of the big screen? Bring movie night home without breaking the bank with electricity costs thanks to the best energy-efficient projectors! But be warned—you may enjoy this new weekly ritual so much that you’ll never want to return to a traditional movie theater again!
Amidst the chaos and confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. states chose to enact stay-at-home or safer-at-home orders in order to reduce the spread of the virus. This also led to the temporary closure of many non-essential businesses, like movie theaters. Even as some states begin to re-open, folks are choosing to stay home to be on the safe side.
Some movies that were scheduled to be released in theaters have now been switched to a digital release format. This means you can stream these new releases from the comfort of your home on “opening day.”
In order to really set the mood, have you considered bringing the theater home? The combination of a big screen, comfy seats, surround sound speakers, and homemade snacks might actually be better than a movie theater!
The most crucial part of any home theater setup is the screen. Even just a few years ago, projectors were confined to corporate meeting rooms and lecture halls. But now, projectors are making their way into dorm rooms and home theaters to create an immersive movie night experience. They present an easy-to-use and cost-effective replacement for the movie theater. Thus saving you money while making family movie nights more convenient!
But what about the “invisible” cost of electricity required to power these projectors? Turns out not all have been created equal from an energy efficiency standpoint. We at WattDoesItUse felt compelled to do some research. Because no one wants to be hit with an unexpectedly astronomic electricity bill!
In this post, we lay out three of the best energy-efficient projectors to ensure your home theater is eco-friendly and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Is Buying a Projector Worth It?
If you’ve only ever had a TV set, you may not immediately see the appeal in projectors. After all, with the advances in big-screen HD resolution, why would you need anything else, right?
There are actually many reasons why you might prefer a projector, even if you’ve never used one for home entertainment before. TVs are incredibly expensive once you start looking into larger screens. If you’ve looked into creating a home theater with a high-resolution TV large enough to cover much of a wall, you know what we mean. You can easily spend upwards of $4,000! A projector can cover that same area for under $1,000-2,000. Plus it provides portability for easy moves from room to room (or even outside in the summer!).
And that cost figure doesn’t even include the cost of powering that massive TV. They may seem like a minor power draw when compared to the rest of the home’s major electronics and appliances. But televisions actually account for an average of four percent of U.S home energy consumption, just behind home lighting. Reducing this electricity consumption not only saves your bank account, it also helps save the environment.
On top of that, one of the most irritating factors about movie night at home is that dreaded glare. Unless you are sitting in just the right spot, you might have to squint see what’s actually happening! That’s enough to ruin anyone’s movie night experience.
Components of the Home Theater
If you’ve made the decision to purchase a projector to take your home theater to the next level, there are many factors to consider. The EPA has not certified any projectors as part of the ENERGYSTAR program yet. This means that you’ll need to do more of your own research to determine which projectors are the most energy-efficient and will result in cost savings on your energy bill.
WattDoesItUse provides shopping guidance and product recommendations to narrow down your short list. Then, its energy use calculator will help you draw comparisons for all the major brands/models out there.
We’ve included some of the most important lingo you’ll need to know here as well. That way you can better determine what projector will best fit your needs.
When it comes to projectors, most people would assume that the brighter it is, the better it will be. That’s not always the case! Your brightness needs will depend entirely on the room where you set up your projector. If you’ve converted your basement or den into a home theater and there is little to no natural light coming into the room, it will be very dark once you turn off the lights. Choosing the brightest projector out there could actually be unpleasant and blinding! If you use blackout curtains or have a super dark room like this, you may want to find an option with slightly less brightness.
Brightness for projector bulbs is measured in lumens. For a very dark basement room, you’ll want a bulb with approximately 1,500-2,000 lumens to avoid blinding yourself. If your projector is in a room with some natural light or windows, you can go brighter with a bulb of 2,500 lumens or higher. The best energy-efficient projectors will be able to project a crisp, vivid display without requiring too bright of a bulb. Much more on that later.
The aspect ratio is the width and height of the image display. The most common aspect ratio across most screens is 16:9, also known as widescreen. If the aspect ratio of your movie or show doesn’t match the screen, this will result in the edges of the screen being cut off or a black border appearing on all sides in order for the image to fit the screen. The majority of modern media technology uses an aspect ratio of 16:9. So this shouldn’t be a problem for you unless you are watching older movies and shows.
For projectors, TVs, and other screens, “contrast” refers to the difference between the darkest and lightest colors of the image. Have you ever been watching a movie and suddenly during a dark scene you can’t see anything that’s going on? That’s a contrast issue. A higher ratio means that there is a bigger difference between light and dark on the screen. However, the lighting of the room makes a huge difference, once again. So the contrast ratio isn’t always the most important projector setting to be concerned with.
Resolution means the number of pixels the projector is using to make up the images being projected. Naturally, a higher resolution means a more crisp and clear image. This becomes very important when looking into the compatibility between content and the projector. Ideally you’d want the content and projector to have the same resolution for the best picture quality. The most common resolution is 1080pixels (p). 720p represents the lower end of resolution. And 4K/Ultra HD is the best resolution out there (but very expensive and energy-intensive!).
This is one of the more important features to pay attention to in a projector. Is it compatible with your devices? Most newer projectors have HDMI cable ports for connection to your input source. But you may see some projectors with VGA or component cables. Fortunately, there are plenty of adapters that you can purchase to connect your projector to your laptop, gaming console, phone, or Blu-ray player. But if you are able to pick out a compatible projector from the start, it will save you some time, money, and headache.
Key Features of the Best Energy-Efficiency Projectors
OK. So we’ve got the lingo down. Now, when choosing the best energy-efficient projector for your home theater, there are several key criteria to consider. While cost is an important factor for many, you may end up spending more on your energy bill if you simply purchase whichever projector seems cheapest. Here are a few of the projector features to research before making your decision.
Lamp Energy Efficiency: Lumens
When looking for the most energy-efficient projectors, try to find the models that use lower wattage lamps with longer expected lifetimes. You should also check the Lumen-Per-Watt ratio to know how much energy it takes to power projections. The more lumens-per-watt a projector has, the more energy-efficient it is. But remember, higher lumens means more power consumption. So ideally, you are looking for a projector with lower lumens overall but a higher lumen-per-watt ratio.
Power Saving Features
Some projectors will have an eco-mode. This functionality adjusts the brightness and other aspects of the projection based on what you are using the projector for. Not every viewing experience will require the same amount of brightness, so this feature allows the projector to conserve power. You may also be able to find projectors that shut off after a period of inactivity. This is a helpful energy-saving feature if your family tends to fall asleep during movies!
Low-Impact Eco-Friendly Manufacturing Process
Energy efficiency technology is one thing. But it’s even better if the manufacturer integrates environmental awareness into its manufacturing processes, as well. When shopping for a projector, try to select one that does not include the use of harmful or toxic materials, such as mercury, in the production process. This way, your wallet and the environment will benefit from your purchase.
Lights, Camera, Action! The Best Energy-Efficient Projectors
Our team took all of the features above into account as we researched the best energy-efficient projectors for your home theater. Don’t see the model you’re considering here? Check WattDoesItUse to find all the information you need regarding other devices’ power consumption!
Best All-Around: LG CineBeam HU80KSW 4K Smart Projector
This LG projector is a fan favorite due to its portability and ease of use. We love how self-contained the system is. It actually has the ability to stream via mainstream apps directly from its LG smart platform. Or you can use physical connection ports if you wish.
The 4K UHD resolution is top-of-the-line, resulting in unparalleled picture quality and color. And even though the light’s brightness is on the higher end—2,500 lumens—that light actually comes from energy-efficient lasers, so a bulb is not necessary! This projector provides a streamlined experience that is both tech-forward but easy to use and energy-efficient but high-performing.
Best for Movie Enthusiasts: BenQ HT2550
This projector features 4K UHD resolution, the best resolution available across projectors currently. This results in crystal clear, vivid imagery. Of course, this system is more costly due to this feature, but true cinephiles won’t be deterred by the upfront cost! The BenQ has HDMI connections and a 2,200 lumen bulb.
It pairs quality color and amazing resolution with an eco-mode designed to reduce its power consumption and extend the life of the light source. The projector does create some fan noise. But it’s an excellent option that pairs and high definition viewing experience with competitive power requirements.
Best Value: Optoma HD 146X
If you are looking for the best bang for your buck, the Optoma is the way to go. With a 66-107” range, HDMI connections, and 1080p resolution, this is a great basic projector to enhance your home theater. It is compatible with the majority of mainstream content you will want to stream. And it will quickly pay for itself! The Optoma has a high-powered 3,000 lumen bulb. It is also quite versatile, as it works well for streaming movies, playing video games via gaming consoles over the projector, and even outdoors for some backyard cinema!
Tips for Using Your Projector
Screen or no screen?
Technically, a projector is actually a two-piece system consisting of the projector box itself along with a screen. Some choose to use a wall. But you will enjoy a much better picture if you project onto a screen, which is designed to optimize projected images. The screens are made to enhance the brightness and contrast of whatever is projected onto them, which is a better alternative than the wall! Of course, if you’re just getting started, the wall is a perfect alternative until you identify a screen you want to invest in.
As mentioned previously, the brightness of your projector is highly dependent upon the room you are using it in. Rather than opting for a projector that is overly bright or has a higher or lower amount of lumens than you need, make sure you select a projector that will fit your needs. If you don’t have an ideal room that is dark enough to create your home theater, consider purchasing blackout curtains to help enhance your projector’s perceived brightness and contrast. (Side note: blackout curtains can help manage the room’s temperature to save on air conditioning, as well! Talk about a win-win!)
Make Memories at Home with Eco-Friendly Movie Nights
In these uncertain times, we are all looking for ways to stay safe at home while still enjoying quality time with our families. While many movie theaters are closed to encourage public safety and social distancing, make the most of your situation by enhancing your home theater! Pick the best energy-efficient projector so you can cuddle up to your favorite movie without the stress of a lurking electricity bill.
For other ways to create an eco-friendly home theater, read up on our previous post with pro tips to save money and energy on movie night. Stay safe and healthy out there! And for more energy- and money-saving strategies straight to your inbox, subscribe to the WattDoesItUse monthly newsletter!