Set-top boxes major energy guzzler in US homes
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Last Updated: Sunday, June 26, 2011, 18:41
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 reported.

A new study has found that some home entertainment systems eat more energy than refrigerators or central air- conditioning systems.

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

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