Try to imagine the amount of power four giant-sized nuclear reactors would put out if running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Quite a bit, right? Well, it just so happens that set-top boxes for cable
TV put out the same amount. Not yours alone, mind you -- but collectively, the 224 million cable and satellite set-top boxes around the world consume the same amount of electricity.
So says a report in the Los Angeles Times
that calls attention to these unassuming power hogs. Outside of air conditioning, they're now the single biggest energy hog in many homes. Part of the reason is because they're running even when you're asleep.
Cable boxes with a built-in digital video recorder (DVR) are even worse. These devices consume as much as 35 watts of power, which translates into about $8 per month for someone living in southern California. Surprisingly, these devices consume nearly as much electricity when turned off as they do when turned on.
Andrew McAllister, a member of the California Energy Commission, told the LAT
that this is a "classic case of market failure," adding that consumers have "zero information and zero control over the devices they get."
Keep in mind we're just talking about set-top boxes. If you factor in all the other electronic gadgets we collectively use today -- PCs, smartphones, and so forth -- the power bill comes for Americans is more than $12 billion a year.