LOS ANGELES – As Southern Californians gathered around their televisions to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, many consumers in the market for a big-screen TV seemed blissfully unaware a power crisis was at hand.
“Let somebody else worry about that problem,” said Fernando Terrazas, 35, as he examined a 55-inch television in a Best Buy store in Cerritos, south of Los Angeles.
“I’m going to my cousin’s house to watch the Super Bowl. He has a big-screen TV. That way we can save electricity,” Terrazas said, grinning.
“Not one person has asked me about energy-efficient TVs,” said Ray Armijo, a sales associate in the electronics department at a Los Angeles Sears store. The area is served by the Department of Water and Power, a municipal utility where rates have remained stable and there are no threats of outages.
“I haven’t heard anyone talking about an electricity crisis,” Armijo said. “There are probably some people who don’t even know about it.”
However, in Ontario, a suburb east of Los Angeles served by struggling Southern California Edison, some shoppers facing the threat of rolling outages have been more energy-conscious.
Mike Lancaster, a sales associate at an Ontario Sears store, said he estimated about one in 10 customers have asked about a program called Energy Star, which offers rebates to consumers who purchase energy-efficient appliances.
That California Public Utilities Commission program is funded with a surcharge on bills from the state’s investor-owned utilities. Those utilities give rebates to customers who buy from a list of energy-efficient appliances, said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander.
In other areas served by Edison, electronics salesmen said conservation is the last thing on the minds of consumers.
“It’s the least of their concerns — they’re buying a big-screen TV,” said Robert Peng, a salesman in the video department of a Good Guys store in Cerritos.
“I haven’t had one customer ask me about that yet. I thought they would, but they’re not,” said Rooshi Panchal, a salesman at a Good Guys store in Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles.
Big-screen TV buyers’ lack of concern probably won’t bring down the power grid, officials said. The jumbo models use only slightly more energy than a normal TV, said Alan Meier, a staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Despite an apparent lack of concern about electricity bills, Armijo said shoppers find other ways to save money.
“We get people who buy big-screen TVs the day before the Super Bowl and then they return them on Monday,” he said.
No big-screen buying was necessary for about 200 people gathered at ESPN Zone, an Anaheim sports restaurant and entertainment complex that boasts 165 television sets, including restroom TVs and a 16-foot-by-13-foot screen surrounded by 12 smaller sets.
“This is the first time I’ve gone out to be with other people to watch the Super Bowl,” said Leo Hamilton, 35. “I think it’s a bonus that it saves electricity, but that’s not why I’m here.”
He was there because he had won free tickets to the complex from a radio station.