Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Elisabeth Rosenthal writes that cable setup boxes and DVRs have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes, causing an increase of over $10 for a home with many devices with some typical home entertainment configurations eating more power than a new refrigerator. The set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are running full tilt, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use consuming $3 billion in electricity in the US with 66 percent of that power wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. “People in the energy efficiency community worry a lot about these boxes, since they will make it more difficult to lower home energy use,” says John Wilson, a former member of the California Energy Commission. “Companies say it can’t be done or it’s too expensive. But in my experience, neither one is true. It can be done, and it often doesn’t cost much, if anything.” 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. Similar devices in some European countries can automatically go into standby mode when not in use, cutting power drawn by half and go into an optional “deep sleep,” which can reduce energy consumption by about 95 percent (PDF) compared with when the machine is active but cable companies say US customers will not tolerate the time it takes to reboot the system once the system has been shut down or put to sleep. Although the EPA has established Energy Star standards for set-top boxes and has plans to tighten them significantly by 2013 cable providers and box manufacturers like Cisco Systems, Samsung and Motorola currently do not feel consumer pressure to improve box efficiency. When Wilson asked box makers why the hard drives were on all the time, using so much power. The answer was: “Nobody asked us to use less.”"
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