by Magen Howard
The high-definition cable box or digital video recorder (DVR) that sits innocently by your TV may be using more electricity per year than a new energy-efficient refrigerator. A recent study found that the boxes use $3 billion in electricity every year in the U.S., with 66 percent of that power wasted while the TV is not being watched or the DVR not recording.
Unfortunately, until cable boxes and DVRs become more energy efficient, there’s no easy solution for consumers looking to save energy, explains Brian Sloboda, a senior program manager specializing in energy efficiency with the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), an arm of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
“The simple answer is using the power button on the remote or adding a power strip to turn the power off when not in use,” Sloboda says. “The problem is that when you cut off all of the power, your DVR will not record programs. You also won’t be able to get automatic software updates, and the program guide may be wiped out.”
Your best bet is to ask your cable or satellite provider for a box carrying the ENERGY STAR label, which certifies that a product attains specific energy efficiency standards.
“Don’t assume it’s an ENERGY STAR box,” Sloboda emphasizes. “Look for the logo on the front of the device.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which created ENERGY STAR in 1992, says it plans to tighten energy efficiency standards for high-definition cable boxes to an average of 29 kilowatts of use per year by the middle of 2013, down from a current average consumption of 38 kilowatts.
Sources: The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/jbQge9), Cooperative Research Network
Magen Howard writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.