THE ISSUE: Set-top boxes.

A report on the energy consumption of set-top boxes by the NRDC has been bouncing around the Internet. These inconspicuous devices that sit beneath our TVs use only a little less power when they are “off” as when they are on. They waste at least $2 billion worth of electricity nationwide even while they are “off” since pressing the power button on your set-top box probably doesn’t really cut the power.

Most set-top boxes on the market are designed to run 24 hours a day. In this way they are warmed up and ready the instant you turn on the TV. While more efficient set-top boxes are available, it is unlikely that they will catch on any time soon. Depending on your cable contract, your box probably belongs to your cable provider, and since they’re not paying the electricity bill, they have no incentive to increase box efficiency.

A typical box might draw 30 Watts of power when it is “off.” When the TV is turned on the draw might only increase to 32 Watts.

30 Watts times 24 hours a day times 365 days a year equals 263 kWh. At $0.15 per kWh that’s $40 per year to keep the TV set off. Further, consuming this much electricity produces approximately 342 lbs of green house gas emissions. It turns out; these numbers aren’t even that high. A set-top box with an HD-DVR can drain more than twice this amount of energy with a corresponding increase in green house gas emissions.

THE FIX: Put an energy saving power strip between your set top box and the outlet, and turn it off when you’re done with the TV.

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