June 27, 2011

American Idol wasting energy in my home?

Oh no. I set my DVR to record a lot of shows when we're not home. Now I'm feeling very guilty. The 6-25-11 New York Times story, Atop TV Sets, a Power Drain That Runs Nonstop, caught my eye.

I never thought about that little cable box that's always lit up. And I've written about "vampire power" in the past too. It seems that televisions have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes, with some using more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems.

The approximate 160 million so-called set-top cable boxes in the United States, as well as add-on digital video recorders (DVRs), which use 40 percent more power than the set-top box, are wasting a lot of energy. They run all day so that we can watch the drivel that a lot of us enjoy.
A recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months.

Fixes exist, but they are not currently being mandated or deployed in the United States. Similar devices in some European countries automatically go into standby mode when not in use, or even into deep sleep.  Cable companies use the lame excuse that customers will not tolerate the time it takes to reboot the system once the system has been shut down or put to sleep. But low-energy European systems reboot from deep sleep in one to two minutes.

I don't know about you, but I can tolerate wasting a few minutes of my time, rather than wasting a lot of electricity. The good news from the EPA is that this agency has established Energy Star standards for set-top boxes and has plans to tighten them significantly by 2013.