How Your Cable TV Box Is Driving Up Your Electric Bill

Victoria Leigh Miller
Yahoo TVJune 18, 2014

Cable TV could be costing you a small fortune. And no, we're not talking about the monthly bill from your local TV service provider. Instead, the high-cost culprits are the boxes that operate your cable or satellite television service.

The Los Angeles Times recently detailed the dire news about the high cost of running cable and satellite boxes, and it could cause you to rethink how you watch your favorite TV shows. Plain and simple, online streaming could save you some money. For now, anyway.

The Times article reveals that there are 224 million cable and satellite boxes currently running across the nation, and together they consume as much electricity as the power produced by four giant nuclear reactors that run around the clock. That's a lot of electricity! In fact, the cable or satellite box, which can consume as much as 35 watts of power on standby, lands in the No. 2 spot on the list of home energy hogs, behind only air-conditioning units. (Desktop computers and accessories also run while you sleep, but they use a fraction of the energy that a cable box does.)

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Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is that switching your box to the "off" switch doesn't do much to save energy. Set-top boxes use nearly as much power when they're powered off as they do when they're turned on due to spinning hard drives and updates to program guides and software. And if you decide to get around that by unplugging the box before bed each night, the reboot will cost you more bucks in the morning.

A spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said that by 2017 the majority of set-top boxes are expected to meet a more energy-efficient standard set by the government. (Eleven cable and satellite companies signed the deal, which aims to reduce power usage by 10 to 45 percent.) However, the current situation definitely makes a case for saving energy by ditching your DVR and watching your favorite TV shows online.

The new devices are expected to use reduced amounts of power and are predicted to save consumers $1 billion annually. But for now, that cable's going to cost you in more ways than one.