Cable Boxes Are Energy Hogs, So Get A New One If You Must

I’m always on a quest to reduce my home energy consumption, so I was intrigued over the winter holidays when Markos Moulitsas of the political blog described his intense efforts to save money and eliminate waste at his house. In particular, he noted the huge energy consumption of DVR cable boxes:

My TV service is provided by DirecTV. My satellite box was drawing 45 watts, continuously. While it had a “sleep” function, it merely dropped consumption by a single watt. You see, devices with DVRs are continously recording, so even if you’re not recording a specific show, it’s recording the last hour of whatever channel you are on. Why? Who the hell knows.

If you have cable, you may be wasting even more on vampire draw. An NRDC study found that set-top boxes drew roughly 50 watts whether they were on or off, or about 446 kWh per year. At my rates, that would be about $85, for something that is on just a fraction of the day.

Then, earlier this year, DirecTV introduced a new settop box mid-last year that consumed 20 watts, less than half the draw of the previous model. I harassed the company until I had my replacement, for free—the most cost-effective upgrade of all. So if you’re sitting on a cable box that you’ve had for a while, see if there’s a newer more efficient model available. The cable companies are under a lot of pressure to improve their energy efficiency, so this could be a great way to save money for little effort.

Since I love local sports, I haven’t been able to “cut the cord” and go all-internet/no cable. So I made it a mission to swap out my box from 2010 and get a new one this past weekend. If anyone is interested in saving energy without sacrifice, this is an easy call to make.

To learn more about efficiency upgrades, I recommend reading Markos’s diary entries on the subject. And for a relatively painless way to find out how to save energy, sign up for Home Energy Analytics on-line. It’s a free web-based software program that can remotely read your Smart Meter and then identify the appliances and features that are using — and wasting, as the case may be — electricity in your house.


One thought on “Cable Boxes Are Energy Hogs, So Get A New One If You Must

Leave a Reply