INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — What uses the most electricity in your home? A recent study says cable TV boxes and DVRs (digital video recorders) may actually use more power than an efficient refrigerator.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the high definition boxes consume $3 billion worth of power every year and most of that energy is used when no one is actually watching TV.

The majority of American TV viewers get their programming from a satellite or cable TV box. These units use power 24-7, so they are always ready when we turn on the TV.

“The TV is on somewhere around six, seven hours a day, so the rest of the time it’s just sitting there sucking energy and not really doing anybody any good,” said DVR user Caragh Bartness.

Bartness said she never thought about her DVR being on 24 hours a day. She likes to conserve power when possible.

“You go to the trouble of trying to do the right thing and then you find out that a little box in your living room is sabotaging your efforts,” she said. “That’s not very good.”

So why don’t we just unplug the things when we don’t want to use them?  If they lose power, DVRs may take 30 minutes or more to reload programming information.

After a power outage, Comcast says some of their premium content may not be viewable while a set-top box awaits commands from the network.

Bartness has heard a different option from relatives in Ireland.

“In Europe, the boxes will power down and so you save a lot of electricity, and apparently the American box makers think that Americans aren’t going to be willing to wait,” said Bartness.

A Comcast statement issued on Monday said they are installing thousands of new boxes that meet Energy Star requirements:

“The newer boxes we’re using are more efficient, and we continue to work with cable box manufacturers to find new ways to make the units even more efficient.”

Another option is using a regular light timer to turn your DVR on and off, so it only has power when there’s programming you want to record.

Comments (2)
  1. Guy says:

    What would have been more energy efficient would be to not NEED cable boxes for basic cable. Before Comcast went digital; we didn’t need 3 cable boxes on 3 tvs – they just picked up the old analog signals. NOW we have to have them so that the old tvs (AND THE NEW TVs too) can get their signals.

  2. Scooby says:

    From a former experienced Comcast technician:

    Users beware of using that light timer suggestion. Like the story stated, if a Comcast DVR loses power it will not record a program unless the on-screen program guide is downloaded. So the light timer idea won’t work unless you give your DVR at least a 30 to 45 minute head start before your recording is schedule to start. You’re welcome Comcast customer service reps! Hope it helps cut down on the phone calls to Comcast & save some headaches on both sides. Any Comcasters will know who I am by the nickname! 🙂

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