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Cable boxes use more power than the fridge

Hate the cable company? Now you have something new to complain about.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 20, 2011 11:36AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


According to a recent report (.pdf file) by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the cable TV boxes in your home may use more electricity than your refrigerator.


The average energy consumption of a typical household setup -- one high-definition digital video recorder and one high-def set-top box -- is 446 kilowatt-hours a year. A 21-cubic-foot Energy Star top-freezer refrigerator, on the other hand, uses 415 kwh. 


And it gets worse. Even if you never turn them on, it's not going to matter much, because set-top boxes use nearly as much electricity whether they're on or off. How much is it costing us as a nation? Post continues after video.

From this article on the NDRC site:

In 2010, the electricity required to operate all U.S. set-top boxes was equal to the annual household electricity consumption of the entire state of Maryland, resulted in 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and cost households more than $3 billion.
What can you do?

Unlike other household appliances, we don't get to choose the set-top boxes the cable or satellite TV companies provide. But there are at least three consumer solutions:

  • Power strip. As we said in last summer's "13 cool tips for lower energy bills," plug your TVs, cable boxes, DVDs, video games, etc., into a power strip and use the power strip as an on/off switch. If you've tried this with your cable boxes, however, you already know the problems. First, powering down your cable box means it can't record shows in your absence. It also means waiting for the channel guide to re-establish itself on power up -- a process that often takes minutes, not seconds.
  • Get a centralized system. You may have seen ads for newer systems that allow you to record shows in one room and watch them in another. These multi-room systems use one master DVR with "client" set-top boxes in other rooms receiving signals from the master. Compared with traditional setups, these use a lot less energy. The NDRC study compared two systems, each with three TVs. The first used the traditional one HD-DVR and two HD receivers. The second used one HD-DVR, and two "client" receivers. Result? The traditional configuration used 617 kilowatt-hours a year. The second used 179.
  • Kiss cable goodbye. Streaming technology like Netflix and Hulu uses a lot less power than set-top boxes. Combine that with getting traditional channels over the air with a digital antenna, and you may find that you can do away with cable entirely. For more, check out one of the most popular stories we've ever done: "You don't have to pay for cable TV."
What can cable companies do?

Obviously, they can use more efficient set-top boxes. In March, the EPA released Energy Star requirements for cable set-top boxes.  Starting in September, new boxes have to use at least 40% less energy than their predecessors in order to be labeled as Energy Star-compliant.

So what cable and satellite companies can -- and should -- do is require the suppliers of this type of equipment to meet Energy Star standards. Then they need to get the more efficient boxes out to consumers ASAP.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Aug 17, 2011 8:03PM

why is it that corporations always need someone to literally push them to what is right for the consumer and the environment. Why do they continually ignore the obvious and then cry foul when presented with the truth. How much would changing for a more energy efficient box actually cost them?  Never mind - what am I thinking, they would pass that down to the consumer anyway and mark it up 300%, then tell us its saving energy!

Aug 17, 2011 7:00PM
About $4/mo. in additional electricity usage.  Add that to your already ballooning cable bill. 
Aug 18, 2011 10:12AM
More than a refrigerator?  That surprises me.  Still, can't say I care much as I don't have one.  Ditched cable years ago.  Talk about an overpriced product.
Aug 17, 2011 11:35PM

Actually, people don't realize how much electricity costs.  That 50.9 watts, 24x7, will typically cost about $4 - 5/mo.


My wife and kids would get mad at me for getting upset about finding the attic lights on all the time... for days... weeks? at a time.  Three 100 watt bulbs.  300 watts.  Roughly $30/mo!  For what?  Because while they had successfully conquered "dark", they could not develop the habit of turning the dam...d lights OFF again.




turn off the lights!!! 


Jun 26, 2011 3:33PM
446 kilowatt-hours a year is just a more complicated way of saying 50.9 watts.  Does the article express it that way to make it seem like a Scary Big Number?
Aug 17, 2011 11:15PM

what you may not know that you can make a power system that can take you off the grid and its not solar or wind and it works. look on you tube under Bedini SSG. people it works if you do just as he said to do it. it really, really wroks. I have it and it works.

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