Product News
DVRs and Other Set-Tops Drain Billions Annually
The Natural Resources Defense Council says that your home's biggest energy hog could surprise you.
June 16, 2011 by Rachel Cericola

Your DVR, cable and/or satellite box gives you so much pleasure. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it also asks a lot in return. The NRDC says that your home’s biggest energy hog is not the refrigerator or air conditioner; it’s actually that pesky set-top box.

The report says that users are spending approximately $1 billion a year to use those boxes. OK, that entertainment may be priceless to some. The shocking part, however, is that those set-tops use another $2 billion while inactive, but still running at near full power.

Get ready to be even more horrified. The NRDC says that the energy wasted is equivalent to the annual energy output of six coal burning power plants (500 MW). Yikes.

“Set-top boxes are the ultimate home energy vampires, silently sucking significant amounts of energy and money when nobody’s using them,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the NRDC. “The consumer, who pays the electric bill, deserves technologies without hidden costs. At a time when everyone is trying to cut waste from our budgets and electric grid, service providers shouldn’t saddle their subscribers with boxes that unnecessarily squeeze their wallets.”

The report, “Reducing the National Energy Consumption of Set-Top Boxes,” says that a new high-def box actually sucks up more energy than a new flat-panel TV.

There are approximately 160 million set-top boxes currently in U.S. homes. That’s about one box for every two Americans.

NRDC is hoping that pay-TV service providers will solve this problem with energy-efficient boxes. One possible solution would be adding some type of low power mode, which is starting to pop up on boxes in Europe. Of course, you could also ask your provider about a better box—one that meets Energy Star Version 4.0 requirements.

“We’ve improved the efficiency of all sorts of electronics—from TVs to video game consoles,” said Horowitz. “It’s just as possible to improve the efficiency of our DVRs and other pay TV boxes. But they’re not going to build a better mousetrap unless we, the consumers, demand it.”

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at

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