New York: Set-top boxes that usher cable
signals and digital recording capacity into televisions have
become the single largest electricity guzzler in many American
homes, according to a media report.
There are 160 million set-top boxes in the United
States, one for every two people, and that number is rising.
Many homes now have one or more basic cable boxes as
well as add-on DVRs, or digital video recorders, which use 40
per cent more power than the set-top box, The New York Times
A new study has found that some home entertainment
systems eat more energy than refrigerators or central air-
One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable
box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 per
cent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator,
a recent study found.
These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because
their drives, tuners and other components are generally
running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not
in active use.
The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense
Council, concluded that the boxes consumed USD 3 billion in
electricity per year in the United States ? and that 66 per
cent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows
are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of
Maryland uses over 12 months.
The perpetually "powered on" state is largely a
function of design and programming choices made by electronics
companies and cable and Internet providers, which are related
to the way cable networks function in the United States. Fixes
exist, but they are not currently being mandated or deployed
in the United States, critics say.
Similar devices in some European countries, for
example, can automatically go into standby mode when not in
use, cutting power drawn by half. They can also go into an
optional "deep sleep," which can reduce energy consumption by
about 95 per cent compared with when the machine is active.
Cable companies say customers will not tolerate the
time it takes to reboot the system once the system has been
shut down or put to sleep.
"The issue of having more efficient equipment is of
interest to us," said Justin Venech, a spokesman for Time
Warner Cable. But, he added, "when we purchase the equipment,
functionality and cost are the primary considerations."
But energy efficiency experts say that technical fixes
could eliminate or minimise the waiting time and
inconvenience, some at little expense. Low-energy European
systems reboot from deep sleep in one to two minutes.
First Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011, 18:41