Forgot your password?
Power Television Entertainment Hardware

Cable Boxes Are the 2nd Biggest Energy Users In Many Homes 394

Posted by timothy
from the time-to-unplug-the-stereo dept.
SpzToid (869795) writes 224 million U.S. cable TV set-top boxes combined consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning. Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts — about the same as a washing machine. A typical set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. And the devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on. The article outlines a voluntary industry agreement that should make a dent in this power consumption (it "calls for a power reduction in the range of 10% to 45% by 2017"), but makes the point that much larger gains are possible: "Energy experts say the boxes could be just as efficient as smartphones, laptop computers or other electronic devices that use a fraction of the power thanks to microprocessors and other technology that conserves electricity. Ideally, they say, these boxes could be put into a deep sleep mode when turned off, cutting consumption to a few watts. At that rate, a box could cost less than $1 a month for power, depending on how much it is used."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cable Boxes Are the 2nd Biggest Energy Users In Many Homes

Comments Filter:
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:31AM (#47253459)

    I have basic cable so I can plug right into my TV. However with digital TV being common why arn't more TV's handling it so you don't need the cable box.

  • Here's an idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZeroPly (881915) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:31AM (#47253465)
    Maybe if you have three cable boxes and a monthly cable bill, you can save a lot MORE money by just canceling cable.

    Got rid of Charter two years ago - now I have a ChannelMaster for OTA, and a couple of Roku boxes. Feels nice not spending that $90 a month.
  • huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:33AM (#47253481)
    I'm very, very surprised that refrigerators aren't #2. Or possibly electric water heaters, in houses that have them.
  • Not true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gavron (1300111) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:36AM (#47253533)

    Number one consumer of electric power: Air conditioning unit. THOUSANDS OF WATTS
    Number two consumer of electric power: Refrigerator. HUNDREDS OF WATTS

    Cable boxes don't come in number two and they don't consume 35 watts.

    So if you're keeping track not only is not "number 2" (a dubious distinction) but its use of electric power is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE below what's chewing up power. In fact, here in Arizona our A/C runs about 20 hours a day. That uses more power per day than the cable box uses in a year. I could ditch cable altogether (I have Comcast so it's a constant thought) and my power bill won't change by 1%.

    How do I know? I use a [] kill-a-watt. The cable box draws less than 1 amp (12W) and that's while it's on and it's the big Motorola unit just like the picture in the original article.

    Do you like facts and statistics and data upon which to base conclusions? You should get one of these kill-a-watts. They're awesome and they're quickto end stupid discussions that say you should unplug your cable box.

    Off to unplug my wifi router. I hear it draws 0.5A.


  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:38AM (#47253557)

    And of course, the cable industry HATES CableCard because they want you to rent a box, which is (apparently) why they made it hard for TV manufacturers to support it.

  • by clonehappy (655530) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:39AM (#47253569)

    Which is it? 500 watts or 35 watts? This summary and title are completely ridiculous, I can think of plenty of other things that are using more power in my home than a cable box. Refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, hair blow dryer, desktop computer, television, central heating/air conditioning, range (if it's electric), power tools/garage, home theatre system, the list goes on and on.
    The reason the "500 Watts!!!" is disingenuous, is because many cable boxes have a switched outlet that allow you to plug in a television set to the back of it. Back in the good ol' days, you could click on the cable box and the TV would turn on as well, if it was plugged into the back. That CRT might draw as much as 500 watts, so that's what it's rated for. With the advent of universal remotes, electronic controls in sets that forget the last power setting and the need for constant power to keep settings and "quick-on" for many sets, this is now an antiquated port that's just a hold over from the olden days of cable TV.
    The STB might be the 2nd biggest energy user in many homes, but I wouldn't bet on *most* homes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:40AM (#47253573)

    The 500W rating might have been for power passthrough (master/slave system) maybe?

    My stereo can pass through power to e.g. a subwoofer, so only when I actually turn on the stereo the subwoofer is powered. The cable box could similarly have a power passhtrough for either the TV or the audio system, which is rated at 500 Watts.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:46AM (#47253613)
    If you've got a better way to toast a cheese sandwich while watching tv, I'd like to hear it.

    If it doesn't involve lasers, flamethrowers or nuclear reactors, it's not a good was to toast a cheese sandwich.

  • by Wansu (846) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @10:00AM (#47253735)

    Amen. The Scientific Atlanta cable TV boxes dissipate an unreasonable amount of heat, enough to significantly warm the room. The Scientific Atlanta DVR boxes dissipate more heat than their cable TV boxes. They take an excessively long time to boot and channel surfing is nearly impossible. Little wonder so many people cut the cord.

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @10:03AM (#47253745)
    What idea? You didn't address the problem of power consumption. You simply offered a solution to not watch cable TV. Of course if you still have internet access, you still have cable right...not too mention: Is your antenna using a preamp? Do you have a dvr for your antenna tv viewing? Do you a device to turn your antenna in order to make channel reception better. Lastly, roku boxes use power too. So how much electricity did you save by removing the cable box???? Think before you post.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @10:37AM (#47254115)

    No, they hate it because it's a massive pain in the ass to deal with.

    The cable industry designed the CableCard standard themselves, so that's their own goddamn fault!

    Yes, all of us programmers are smart enough to realize you could just trigger the auto-wake a minute or two early, but they don't do that... and that's not the fault of your cable company it's the fault of Motorola, ARRIS, Pace, and the other makers of the actual equipment. Their code is clunky and shit, and to top it off someone asswipe company probably has a software patent on 'waking up the box prior to the recording start time to minimize power consumption'. Yes, really.


    It is the cable company's fault precisely because the cable company, not the user, is choosing which cable boxes to buy and the cable company (unlike the user) doesn't give a shit about user experience. If cable boxes / DVRs were sold retail instead of rented there would be competition and the manufacturers would be forced to get their shit together!

  • by netsavior (627338) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @11:33AM (#47254693)
    not to mention, converting so much electricity to heat also increases the power consumption of the #1 current draw, the A/C.
  • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @11:54AM (#47254871)

    The funny thing is that ever since Reagan and Thatcher launched a new form of right wing politics we live in an era where the "conservatives" are radicals who want to replace a working system with their utopian dream society, while the "socialists" or "liberals" are people who want to keep the tried and tested system with all or most of its government involvement in the economy.

    Anyway, this particular problem could be solved in two ways:
    1. Have the government determine standards and force companies to certify their products.
    2. Have a private non-profit organization determine standards, encourage companies to certify their products, and name and shame the companies that don't do it. Consumer don't want to buy from brands that have a reputation for not caring about the environment.

    So it's not completely impossible for the market to solve the problem. It's just unlikely to happen soon.

  • by jandrese (485) <> on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:19PM (#47255617) Homepage Journal
    CableCard was designed to fail. It wouldn't exist at all without the FCC mandate (trying to break the cable company's stranglehold on STBs), so they went out of their way to make them as inconvenient and discourage people from using them. Cablecards are a threat to the traditional vertical monopoly cable companies enjoy, which is why they are trying so hard to make them a failure.

Programmers do it bit by bit.