Ever since Oprah left the airwaves, I’ve had to lower my “guilty-pleasure” TV viewing standards by taping reality shows featuring everything from people who hoard animals, children or trash to real-life stories of tots in tiny wig-lets competing for tiaras.
True confession: after a long day of championing the virtues of energy efficiency, I switch on my energy -sucking flat screen and allow my brain to meander mindlessly through such pre-taped decadence. Until a couple of weeks ago when my husband read a report about how much parasitic energy cable boxes and DVRs (“set-top boxes”) drain when not in use.
“Did you know that DVRs and cable boxes use more electricity than any other appliance—even our refrigerator?” he reported smugly. (This, in response to my horror in discovering that he had flipped the “off” switch earlier and I wouldn’t be keeping up with the Kardashians that evening…)
I’m all for saving energy. CFLs, thermostat adjusting, weather-stripping, I’m down with all of that. But mess with my DVR? The device that has freed me from the shackles of planning life around cable network schedules?
Ends up, according to the smarty-pants scientists at the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) who produced the report, we set-top box slaves squander the same amount of energy that six coal-burning power plants put out in a year. In dollars and cents, that’s about $3 billion a year. Yeek.
High-definition DVRs are the worst culprits. Since they run at full power even when not in use, they use more power than flat-panel TVs. Even standard cable boxes, which use about 40% less power, are huge energy wasters.
Apparently a solution is in the works. ENERGY STAR® qualified set-top boxes that are 30% more efficient have been manufactured and you can ask your cable or satellite service provider if they are available.
Until then, I’ll turn off the set-top box when we’re not using it and save the DVR for the important stuff. I figure my energy bill, and my IQ, will probably benefit a bit from some straight-up public television viewing.
What are your “must-have” energy wasters and what efficiency behaviors have you found easy to adopt? We’d love to hear about your own successes and true confessions.
Article by Jo Fukaye, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.