Set-top boxes are the new hog


Once upon a time, outside of heating, cooling, and water heating, the refrigerator was the biggest energy consumer in the home.  That’s changing.  In part, this is because ratcheting standards and programs like ENERGY STAR have led to more and more efficient appliances.  However, it’s changing in part because we’re introducing more and more electrical loads into the home.

An article in today’s NY Times points out:

One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.

These set-top boxes run full-tilt, 24/7, even when they’re not needed, or it you turn them “off”.  (Is “off” really “off” if it still draws about the same power?)

If doesn’t have to been that way.  At little or NO cost, we could have much more efficient boxes, reducing power consumption of these and other phantom loads by 50% easily, or much more.  But we don’t ask, the cable companies assume (rightly?) that we don’t care.  We should.  Not only does this mean, depending on electric rates, we could be paying $50 or even $100 per year to keep these running, but collectively we raise the generation demands and stress out our overtaxed electric grid.  Guess who’s rates will go up as we have to add on new, more expensive power plants?  Yep, ours.  Guess who pays for the upgrades we’ll need to improve the grid?  Yep, we will, in the form of still higher rates.

I’m not suggesting we blow up our TV’s (although I do like that John Prine song, Spanish Pipedream).  But unless we all expect to win the lottery—rather unlikely, don’t you think?—we need to get much more serious about energy-efficiency, including in our homes.  Not just set-top boxes, but insulation, air-sealing, heating, cooling, other phantom loads, the works.  Reduce your energy use, save money even if rates go up, help keep rates down, and save even more.  It’s an economic no-brainer. 




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