•  paul
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Try to imagine the amount of power four giant-sized nuclear reactors would put out if running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Quite a bit, right? Well, it just so happens that set-top boxes for cable and satellite TV put out the same amount. Not yours alone, mind you -- but collectively, the 224 million cable and satellite set-top boxes around the world consume the same amount of electricity.

So says a report in the Los Angeles Times that calls attention to these unassuming power hogs. Outside of air conditioning, they're now the single biggest energy hog in many homes. Part of the reason is because they're running even when you're asleep.

Set-Top Box
Image Source: Flickr (Andrew Currie)

Cable boxes with a built-in digital video recorder (DVR) are even worse. These devices consume as much as 35 watts of power, which translates into about $8 per month for someone living in southern California. Surprisingly, these devices consume nearly as much electricity when turned off as they do when turned on.

Andrew McAllister, a member of the California Energy Commission, told the LAT that this is a "classic case of market failure," adding that consumers have "zero information and zero control over the devices they get."

Keep in mind we're just talking about set-top boxes. If you factor in all the other electronic gadgets we collectively use today -- PCs, smartphones, and so forth -- the power bill comes for Americans is more than $12 billion a year.

don't forget the whole- turn off the TV not everything bit. I know I leave my cable box on so it's one less thing to power up.


Pretty disgusting, especially considering that most of them haven't had any of the technology updated in 10 years either. Pretty much explains why they stink. We could have set top boxes the that are much smaller an easily use an eighth of the power.


Sad thing is that you could literally replace the entire box with Raspberry PI and have it draw just milliWatts when idled and less than 10W fully operational... Hell, if they wanted to they could use a Snapdragon 805 (~5W) and allow all the bells and whistles they wanted to, including DVR, multiple video out, and increased compression of digital channels (they could easily fit everything in 30% less space by switching to a streaming h264 rather than ATSC). And all while costing a quarter of what they charge customers for a box!