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How many solar panels do you need to binge your favorite TV shows?

With Game of Thrones 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? And how does this series compare to some of the other long-running series on TV in terms of solar energy required to power a complete-series watch-a-thon?

How much electricity does a TV use?

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, is a calculation of two factors: power consumption multiplied by time. The power consumption is expressed in watts. For instance, old incandescent lightbulbs required 60 watts of power. The amount of electricity consumed by a lightbulb depends upon how long you turn it on for. If you turn it on for a single hour, it would 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 exactly 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 currently offered products on the market confirms this range, as there are 80-watt 32-inch LED TVs, as well as 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 the purposes of this exercise, we’re assuming the average TV uses 200 watts.

Calculating how much energy is required to watch an entire TV series

With power consumption in hand, the next piece required to calculate energy consumption is the amount of time you’ll be watching TV. For instance, the eighth season of Game of Thrones is said to be 440 minutes long, or just over 7 hours-worth 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, however, 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.

How much solar energy is required to watch your favorite shows?

Solar panels come in a range of sizes, from 200 watts per panel to even 400 watts per panel. On EnergySage, we most commonly see panels quoted in the 300 to 360-watt range. For the purposes of 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 at what power it is producing energy and for how much time. Because the sun shines stronger and for more hours at southern latitudes than in northern latitudes, the amount of 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

SeriesEpisodesLength of episodes (minutes)Length of series (hours)Total energy consumed (kWh)Days of solar required in the NortheastDays of solar required in the Southwest ER3314826553.04225 The Simpsons5222219138.23018 The West Wing15648125252012 M*A*S*H2552510621.21710 Lost122448917.8148 Friends238228717.4148 How I Met Your Mother208228717.4148 The Office201227414.8127 Game of Thrones73607314.6127 The Sopranos86507214.4117 Mad Men92446713.4116 The Wire60606012106 Breaking Bad624445974 Arrested Development7622285.643

Using those assumptions, watching the entirety of Game of Thrones requires 12 days of output from a single solar panel in the Northeast, or 7 days of output from a single solar panel in the Southwest. If you’re installing solar panels, though, you will likely install closer to 20 or even 30 solar panels to cover all of 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.

Power your TV–and much more!–with solar energy

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.


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