Cable boxes and DVRs use more power than your fridge

Posted by Kate Taylor

You've probably never stopped to consider just how much power your set-top box is consuming.

Even if you have, you've probably not been that concerned. Most of the time, you're not watching anything and it's just sitting there doing nothing - it can hardly be using that much electricity, right?

Wrong. Astonishingly, according to a report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they're using 168 kilowatt-hours each every year - 27 billion killowatt-hours across the US as a total, at an annual cost of $3 billion.

And it's even worse when you add a video recorder into the mix: each HD-DVR and HD set-top box configuration uses more power than a television, at 446 kilowatt-hours of power per year - more, even, than a modern refrigerator.

"Today’s set-top boxes operate at near full power even when the consumer is neither watching nor recording a show. As a nation, we spend $2 billion each year to power these boxes when they are not being actively used," says the NRDC.

"Better designed pay-TV set-top boxes could reduce the energy use of the installed base of boxes by 30 percent to 50 percent by 2020."

The answer, says the NRDC, is for the industry to shift to whole-home solutions that include a main box connected to the primary TV with either TVs specially designed
to access the video content stored on the main box or low-power thin client boxes that serve the same function.

In addition, it says, boxes should automatically power down to much lower levels when not in use, such as in the middle of the night or while users are at work.

Similar boxes in Europe do exactly this, dropping into a standby mode when not in use and halving their power consumption. But this means waiting a second or two for the device to power up when required - something that vendors think is unacceptable to impatient US consumers.