Posted Dec 20, 2010
Do Digital Billboards Waste Energy?
By Elisabeth Rosenthal
The New York Times
Last spring, the paper’s Driven to Distraction series explored the potential risks of digital billboards, which critics sometimes refer to as “TV on a stick.” Some cities and states are debating whether to prohibit or regulate this new form of advertising for fear that it can distract drivers and raise the rate of accidents.
A new study concludes that there are environmental reasons to avoid digital billboards as well. Digital billboards, which are made of LED lights, consume lots of energy and are made of components that will turn into e-waste once the billboard’s life has ended.
But wait, you ask, isn’t LED lighting quite energy-efficient? True, notes the report’s author, Gregory Young, a Philadelphia-based architectural designer and urban planner. But traditional billboards are lit by only two or three lamps, albeit inefficient ones, and only at night. By contrast, digital billboards have hundreds if not thousands of LEDs, which are illuminated day and night. And LEDs function poorly at high temperatures, so the signs need a cooling system.
In a year, a digital billboard can consume up to 30 times the energy that an average American home uses, Mr. Young finds.