How many solar panels do you need to binge your favorite TV shows?
When Game of Thrones was about to return for its eighth and final season, we at EnergySage began to wonder how much energy it takes to binge-watch the entirety of the series. Naturally, our next question was: how many solar panels would it take to watch all of Game of Thrones, or some of the other long-running streaming shows. We ran the numbers to find out.
The first question we need to answer is how much energy televisions consume. Electricity usage, expressed in kilowatt-hours (kWh) as seen on your electric bill, calculates two factors: power consumption multiplied by time. The power consumption is expressed in watts. For instance, old incandescent lightbulbs require 60 watts of power. The amount of electricity a lightbulb consumes depends on how long you turn it on. If you turn it on for a single hour, it will consume 60 watt-hours. If you turn it on for 5 hours a day, every day per year, that same lightbulb would consume 109,500 watt-hours or 109.5 kWh.
The calculation steps for TVs are the same. To determine how much electricity your TV uses, you need to know how much power it consumes and how long you plan on watching TV. Different types of TVs require different amounts of power. The Department of Energy provides a handy home appliance energy use calculator, which says modern TVs use anywhere from 150 watts (LCD or LED TVs under 40 inches) to 300 watts (plasma TVs).
Looking at the current products on the market confirms this range, as there are 80-watt 32-inch LED TVs and 350-watt 75-inch LED TVs. Your TV's specific wattage likely falls within that range and will be listed in the documentation for your product. For this exercise, we're assuming the average TV uses 200 watts.
With power consumption in hand, the next piece required to calculate energy consumption is the time you watch TV. The eighth season of Game of Thrones is said to be 440 minutes long, or just over seven hours of watch time. Watching the entire season with a 200-watt television would consume about 1.4 kilowatt hours. Given that the average American household consumes close to 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, watching the final season of Game of Thrones may only comprise a small fraction of your monthly electric bill.
Watching the entirety of the series is a different story. With eight seasons worth of episodes spanning nearly a decade, it would require 14.6 kilowatt-hours of energy to watch the entirety of Game of Thrones on a 200-watt TV.
Solar panels come in various sizes, from 200 watts to even 400 watts per panel. On EnergySage, we commonly see panels quoted in the 300 to 360-watt range. For this analysis, we'll assume a 350-watt solar panel.
Calculating how much energy a solar panel produces is similar to calculating how much energy your TV consumes: you need to know how much power it produces and for how long. Because the sun shines stronger and for more hours at southern latitudes than in northern latitudes, the energy produced by a single solar panel varies from region to region throughout the US. A reasonable assumption is that a 350-watt solar panel will produce an average of 1.25 kilowatt-hours per day in the Northeast and over 2 kilowatt-hours per day in the sun-rich Southwest.
Solar energy required to watch long-running shows
LENGTH OF EPISODES (MINUTES)
LENGTH OF SERIES (HOURS)
TOTAL ENERGY CONSUMED (KWH)
DAYS OF SOLAR REQUIRED IN THE NORTHEAST
DAYS OF SOLAR REQUIRED IN THE SOUTHWEST
|The West Wing||156||48||125||25||20||12|
|How I Met Your Mother||208||22||87||17.4||14||8|
|Game of Thrones||73||60||73||14.6||12||7|
Using those assumptions, watching the entirety of Game of Thrones requires 12 days of output from a single solar panel in the Northeast or seven days of output from a single solar panel in the Southwest. If you're installing solar panels, you will likely install closer to 20 or even 30 solar panels to cover all your energy needs. As a result, the average solar homeowner produces more than enough electricity to watch all of Game of Thrones in a single day.
If you're interested in powering your TV and other home appliances with solar, a great place to start is with our free Solar Calculator tool, which allows you to estimate how much you could save with solar energy. When you're ready to take the next step in your solar journey, register for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive solar quotes specific to your house from local, pre-screened solar installers.