Technology Your Cable Box Is an Energy-Sucking Monster


The Helper Connoisseur / Ex-MineCraft Host
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An innocent little cable box can suck up more electricity than your actual TV. The most galling part though? Up to two-thirds of its power-hogging actually happens in "idle" mode, when you're not even using it. The good news is, device makers have the technical ability to make cable boxes that don't waste so much electricity. They just need to actually do it.

Things are starting to look up—albeit slowly. Back in 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) put out a scathing report on set-top boxes, the technical name for devices that converts signals broadcasted by your cable company into video and sound. At the time of the report there were about 160 million of them in the U.S., and they collectively slurp up 27 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

To put it in more wallet-hitting terms, Americans pay $3 billion a year to power set-top boxes, $2 billion of which is wasted on boxes whirring away when the TV is off. Yikes.

Since the report, the cable industry has, with the NRDC's input, hammered out a Voluntary Agreement (pdf) to reel in the energy waste. The agreement sets deadlines for cables boxes to meet modest energy savings ("Tier 1") by 2014 and additional savings ("Tier 2") by 2017. From 2012 to 2013, the energy consumption of new set-top boxes bought by cable companies to give to customers actually did drop 14 percent.

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