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Cable Boxes Are the 2nd Biggest Energy Users In Many Homes

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the time-to-unplug-the-stereo dept.

Power 394

SpzToid (869795) writes 224 million U.S. cable TV set-top boxes combined consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning. Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts — about the same as a washing machine. A typical set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. And the devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on. The article outlines a voluntary industry agreement that should make a dent in this power consumption (it "calls for a power reduction in the range of 10% to 45% by 2017"), but makes the point that much larger gains are possible: "Energy experts say the boxes could be just as efficient as smartphones, laptop computers or other electronic devices that use a fraction of the power thanks to microprocessors and other technology that conserves electricity. Ideally, they say, these boxes could be put into a deep sleep mode when turned off, cutting consumption to a few watts. At that rate, a box could cost less than $1 a month for power, depending on how much it is used."

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What if I get hungry? (5, Funny)

RobSwider (669148) | about 3 months ago | (#47253451)

If you've got a better way to toast a cheese sandwich while watching tv, I'd like to hear it.

Re:What if I get hungry? (1, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 3 months ago | (#47253613)

If you've got a better way to toast a cheese sandwich while watching tv, I'd like to hear it.

If it doesn't involve lasers, flamethrowers or nuclear reactors, it's not a good was to toast a cheese sandwich.

Re:What if I get hungry? (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 3 months ago | (#47253909)

If you've got a better way to toast a cheese sandwich while watching tv, I'd like to hear it.

If it doesn't involve lasers, flamethrowers or nuclear reactors, it's not a good was to toast a cheese sandwich.

Didn't you read the stub? Four nuclear reactors!

Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 months ago | (#47253459)

I have basic cable so I can plug right into my TV. However with digital TV being common why arn't more TV's handling it so you don't need the cable box.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (1)

alen (225700) | about 3 months ago | (#47253493)

the signal is encrypted even for the broadcast channels so you need a cable box or cable card with adapter.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 months ago | (#47253557)

And of course, the cable industry HATES CableCard because they want you to rent a box, which is (apparently) why they made it hard for TV manufacturers to support it.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253817)

And of course, the cable industry HATES CableCard because they want you to rent a box, which is (apparently) why they made it hard for TV manufacturers to support it.

Cable industry hates generation 1 cable cards and devices that use them, because they don't support 2 way communication. In short, they don't support pay per view.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 months ago | (#47253999)

Sure, I'll buy that. Obviously, that means there are tons of TVs that support "tru2way" CableCards these days, since it's been a standard for 6 years now.

Oh, wait...!

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253823)

You act as though this is a conspiracy when there are *cheap* devices that plug right into your TV available now. The problem is your modern TV does not have enough horsepower to keep up with the cable card. Sure a TV *could* have that horsepower but when a consumer is presented with a $300 tv that plugs into their $10/mo cable box vs a $900 tv that allows you to forego the cable box you can bet consumers will pick the former option becuase it's less money upfront.

With that said, doing a search for cablecard on various shopping sites brings up a plethora of devices under $200. So either you can stop complaining and buy one of these devices and help lower costs in the long term or you can keep bitching on an internet forum about shit you obviously don't know about and wait until cost of processing power drops some more so bestbuy and walmart tvs can incorporate them.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (3, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 3 months ago | (#47253839)

time warner cable in NYC will rent the cable card and adapter for $2.50 a month compared to $10 or more for the cable box

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253951)

And of course, the cable industry HATES CableCard because they want you to rent a box, which is (apparently) why they made it hard for TV manufacturers to support it.

No, they hate it because it's a massive pain in the ass to deal with. With STB's and DVR's (two DIFFERENT kinds of "cable box", a point the story intentionally glosses over), the cable company can control exactly which models are deployed and what software versions are running on them. Cable cards force them to deal with all kinds of half-assed 3rd party implementations, and drive support calls for problems they can't fix.

The higher energy use boxes are, of course, the DVR's, which have an actual HDD inside them. A "deep sleep" mode isn't much of an option because people hate to wait and aren't going to put up with recordings that don't start on time. Yes, all of us programmers are smart enough to realize you could just trigger the auto-wake a minute or two early, but they don't do that... and that's not the fault of your cable company it's the fault of Motorola, ARRIS, Pace, and the other makers of the actual equipment. Their code is clunky and shit, and to top it off someone asswipe company probably has a software patent on 'waking up the box prior to the recording start time to minimize power consumption'. Yes, really.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253879)

The majority of the reason is that most good cable companies are switching to all video over multicast rather than standard analog or digital signals. Once that happens, it'll free up a good amount of the coax spectrum to increase up and downstream bandwidth.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253917)

Because the feeds are encrypted. Digital signals can be directly decoded by any newish TV but they have to be clear.

Re:Why can't you plug into you TV anymore. (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#47253993)

Where I live, Comcast sent the broadcast channels unencrypted in high-def over cable for several years after the digital conversion. They had sent some converter boxes, but since everything was working fine I thought they were only needed for analog TVs to watch the new digital signal. Then, poof, one day my PVR wouldn't work any more, and the next time I tried watching TV in real-time, it didn't work (even after a channel scan). So I hooked my PVR to an antenna now I have cable TV service, with no TV signal.

Here's an idea... (4, Insightful)

ZeroPly (881915) | about 3 months ago | (#47253465)

Maybe if you have three cable boxes and a monthly cable bill, you can save a lot MORE money by just canceling cable.

Got rid of Charter two years ago - now I have a ChannelMaster for OTA, and a couple of Roku boxes. Feels nice not spending that $90 a month.

Re:Here's an idea... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253525)

I want to impregnate your rancid anus with my fetid pregnancy rod. Ah, I see that your disgusting asshole is filled with feces, and that the feces itself is filled with little pinworms! What a glorious day this is! Allow me to introduce my fetid friend to your smelly, smelly rectum... What say you?

Re:Here's an idea... (2, Insightful)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253745)

What idea? You didn't address the problem of power consumption. You simply offered a solution to not watch cable TV. Of course if you still have internet access, you still have cable right...not too mention: Is your antenna using a preamp? Do you have a dvr for your antenna tv viewing? Do you a device to turn your antenna in order to make channel reception better. Lastly, roku boxes use power too. So how much electricity did you save by removing the cable box???? Think before you post.

Re:Here's an idea... (4, Informative)

ZeroPly (881915) | about 3 months ago | (#47253901)

Uhh... if you don't have cable boxes, they don't use power? Sorry I didn't explain the logic at a 5th grade level. My antenna sits in the window and connects to the DVR, which is unplugged except for the rare occasion there's something on broadcast TV I want to record. The whole mess is on a power strip that I turn off when I'm not watching TV. I use a $35 Killawatt to see how much each device uses, so there are no surprises.

Yes, I have a device to turn my antenna for better reception. It's called "my hand".

Americans are always looking for the technological fix. Does anyone really need TV's in every room including the guest bathroom? Just reduce your consumption and try living a little simpler.

Re:Here's an idea... (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47254021)

And you have other devices that use electricity, which replaced your cable box - a 5th grader would have picked up on that.

So you really are a newbie aren't you. See when people cut the cord, they buy a real antenna http://www.solidsignal.com/pvi... [solidsignal.com] which is mounted on the roof, and get a rotator and a preamp. They also might buy a dvr to record TV, which they would keep on in order to record the program.

But I guess you think everyone should live the way you do. Wow.

Re:Here's an idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253947)

The post addressed the problem of spending an unnecessary $90 a month, as opposed to the far smaller saving from shaving a bit off the power consumption. Think before you post.

Re:Here's an idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253981)

Are you just trying to be contrary for no reason? A Roku [gigaom.com] and a preamplifier use a handful of watts, and an aimable antenna is cheap. Even if you home-build a DVR, unless you go wacko with hard drives, processors, and power supplies, you're still coming in way under 500 watts total.

Re:Here's an idea... (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47254003)

there is no 500 W draw, that's a lie

they get hot too (4, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 3 months ago | (#47253475)

even when they are off. at least the older Scientific Atlanta ones did. time warner cable in NYC has new Cisco and Motorola ones that are a lot more efficient and don't get nearly as hot

Re:they get hot too (3, Insightful)

Wansu (846) | about 3 months ago | (#47253735)

Amen. The Scientific Atlanta cable TV boxes dissipate an unreasonable amount of heat, enough to significantly warm the room. The Scientific Atlanta DVR boxes dissipate more heat than their cable TV boxes. They take an excessively long time to boot and channel surfing is nearly impossible. Little wonder so many people cut the cord.

Deep sleep ... a few watts ... (2)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 3 months ago | (#47253477)

... wth?

If it consumes more than one Watt, it's nowhere near "deep sleep".

Re:Deep sleep ... a few watts ... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253565)

sure it is, doesn't matter if one or fifteen watts, won't matter at all compared to all else american household is using, it's a rounding error

and as I've stated elsewhere, the boxes don't pull 500 watts running, not even a third of that

Re:Deep sleep ... a few watts ... (2)

wildfish (779284) | about 3 months ago | (#47253765)

35 watts X 8760 hours a day X 224 million boxes equals 3000 MW equals three large thermal electric generation plant. Maybe a rounding error to you but because the load is continuous and there are so many it adds up.

huh (5, Insightful)

buddyglass (925859) | about 3 months ago | (#47253481)

I'm very, very surprised that refrigerators aren't #2. Or possibly electric water heaters, in houses that have them.

Re:huh (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253519)

don't worry, the article is false and architect is an idiot who knows nothing about electronics

Yup-article is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253609)

500W, I call BS.

With that kind of power, my entertainment system would be burning up.
Anyway, I ditched all forms of pay TV, relying on internet and over the air.

The computer used for the TV goes into sleep mode, and uses 1W per my kill-a-watt.
When running the AMD 45W quad core and SSD usually run the whole box ar 30-40 W at moderate activity (like playing Pandora or watching youTube.

Re:Yup-article is BS (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253779)

RTFA: "A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. " So I guess reading is an issue for you.

Re:Yup-article is BS (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253799)

I did read the article, here is what we're complaining about:

Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts — about the same as a washing machine.

which is irrelevant rubbish, that box does not consume 500 watts

Re:Yup-article is BS (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47253943)

which is irrelevant rubbish, that box does not consume 500 watts

i just checked the back of my Cisco PVR.

And it says it's rated for 500W.

Why on earth would it even *need* to be rated that high?

  Someone clearly expected at some point it might need to draw that much power, I just can't figure out why. That seems really really high to me.

Re:Yup-article is BS (1)

Wing_Zero (692394) | about 3 months ago | (#47254015)

that label is referring to "Peak Power", or the most power it may use at any one time. this may refer to it on start-up, when it spikes at 500w for .5 seconds, then idles at 35w for the remainder. Kinda like buying a Power supply for a pc, you need the 700w version to start the spinning disks, but once started, consumes only 100w continuous.

Re:huh (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 months ago | (#47253805)

don't worry, the article is false and nearly every architect is an idiot

That sums it up better

Re:huh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253645)

The article is a load of bullshit in terms of energy use. The author is looking at maximum nameplate watts on the cable box, and not actual consumption. They also use the word "energy" interchangeably with "electricity", completely ignoring the fact that many homes burn gas, oil or wood for space heating and heating water which requires MUCH more energy than a cable box. They also conveniently use electricity rates from Southern California for their estimated costs, which are at least 2-3 times the national average cost of electricity.

Re:huh (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47253661)

I'm very, very surprised that refrigerators aren't #2. Or possibly electric water heaters, in houses that have them.

They may well be. TFA doesn't say otherwise. You need to learn to look for weasel words: TFA only says that cable boxes are #2 in "many" homes. That could mean anything. 100 homes could count as "many" even though there are a million times that many homes in America.

I bet DVR boxes are even worse (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | about 3 months ago | (#47253487)

I've got a couple of Comcast DVRs instead of cable boxes... with a Cable box, you should be able to power off when not in use, but with a DVR, this could be a bit trickier... I suppose it could do some smart scheduling where it turns itself off unless actively recording shows - keep a sub-section with scheduling info running so it knows to spin up a few minutes before recording a show...

Still, I should think that DVR boxes on a per-box basis would be a bigger issue than regular cable boxes.

As for most electricity in the home? For me, the electric tumble drier and the electric oven/range (some day, I hope to replace with gas) would get second billing, then my computers / server.

Re:I bet DVR boxes are even worse (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253793)

Those are DVRs. Read the article. The fact that you can't turn them off is a problem to begin with.

Wonder if they'll improve the firmware (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 months ago | (#47253489)

Seems you can't buy any form of digibox these days without some serious firmware bugs whether its just picture freezing , "buffering" remote control key presses until it can be bothered to process them, missed recordings for no apparent reason or just complete crashes requiring a hard reboot. Or if like me you were dumb enough to buy a Sagemcom box - then all of the above.

pure rubbish (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253507)

rating on back is not power draw, you might get close to that during startup. normal draw is less than 140 watts, put it in standby and get 15 watts

I once worked in engineering group that also had couple of architects, we called them "farcitechs" and now you all know why

Re:pure rubbish (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | about 3 months ago | (#47253579)

I once worked in engineering group that also had couple of architects, we called them "farcitechs" and now you all know why

It may seem obvious to you, but I felt you could be clearer on why all your architects joined the People's Army of Columbia.

Re:pure rubbish (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253871)

good idea, they would make excellent machine gun fodder for Columbia's armed forces

Re:pure rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253621)

> normal draw is less than 140 watts

That's about what I use when all the lights in my house are turned on. My kitchen, for instance, is very brightly lit by five 9W LEDs, and they are often dimmed. My TV room has six 8.5W LED pots, and normally only two are turned on. All the rest of the lights are LEDs or CFLs in the utility rooms. On average, I'm burning maybe 50 to 60W to light the whole place.

So why a stupid cable box should use more than that is a mystery. Especially when you consider that the AppleTV, which does far more than a cable box, draws about 5W, less than one light bulb.

These boxes are dinosaurs, and should go extinct.

> put it in standby and get 15 watts

So enough to light 1/3rd of my house. That number should be less than 1W, period.

Re:pure rubbish (0)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253773)

most people live with others, average is 2.6 per household, so your single life power draw doesn't mean much.

I wonder, do you waste all that saved energy from efficient lighting running your computer and monitor all night jacking to porn?

Re:pure rubbish (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47253967)

I wonder, do you waste all that saved energy from efficient lighting running your computer and monitor all night jacking to porn?

Well, a more neutral way of saying that would be if they allocate that savings ... maybe they don't perceive it as a waste. ;-)

Re:pure rubbish (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 months ago | (#47253891)

These boxes are dinosaurs

I think this is actually part of the problem. The cable box I use is probably close to 10 years old. And that's how long I've owned it. The actual date they started manufacturing the model could be close to 15 years old. In terms of technology, they are dinosaurs. There really isn't any reason for these boxes to use more than 5 watts, or maybe 10, but they are ancient designs. Just look at the size of them. The whole what they are doing could probably fit in an HDMI dongle, for for some reason my cable box is the size of a VHS player.

Re:pure rubbish (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253809)

And the article said, wait for it "A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. " Funny when you actually read the article how you find things out.

Re:pure rubbish (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47253825)

you are funny, the utter BS right before that was:

"Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts — about the same as a washing machine."

Re:pure rubbish (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | about 3 months ago | (#47253937)

"normal draw is less than 140 watts, put it in standby and get 15 watts"

That's less than 500, but still an order of magnitude more than a set top box should need! IIRC power supply ratings on Apple TV and Roku box are both under 10 watts, real usage is probably 3-5. Add a WD green or similar hard drive (6-8W) and a couple of tuners and encoding ASICS and it still shouldn't break 20 watts at full load.

These boxes have long outlived their usefulness (2)

JoeDaddyZZZ (3543989) | about 3 months ago | (#47253509)

Just bring the line in and go with a standard hardware. Stop charging me a monthly fee for every single TV in the house, whether it is on or not.

Useful is in the eye of the collector (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 months ago | (#47253867)

If you think non-standardization is not useful, you're just on the wrong side of the line where money changes hands.

The entire industry is designed to keep out people who aren't paying, and to extract as much as possible (what the companies call a "fair share") from those who do.

You could look at it another way: Why should a single person with one TV pay as much as a family of 4 with as many TVs? A boarding house with 8 room mates, each with their own room and TV? Just be lucky they haven't decided to charge extra when you have company over. Yet.

Why don't the Asshat Cable Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253511)

let us go back to receiving channels using the built in digital tuners of modern TVs rather than scrambling everything in sight? Oh, I forgot, they can make another $10.00-$20.00 a month per TV because consumers are sheep...

Re:Why don't the Asshat Cable Companies (1)

alen (225700) | about 3 months ago | (#47253535)

the owners of the broadcast channels make the cable companies pay to rebroadcast those channels via cable

Meanwhile, in the EU (4, Interesting)

Wootery (1087023) | about 3 months ago | (#47253517)

Apparently [wikipedia.org] EU policy requires that devices which are off or in standby use no more than 0.5 watts.

Whether it's actually enforced, I have no idea.

Re:Meanwhile, in the EU (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253593)

its actually enforced else you wont get the CE sticker on your product and your not allowed to sell it in europe.

a example my TV when in standby uses 0.2 and the digital converter is build in so no set top boxes needed.

but there is still the wording trick to get around it call it "deep sleep" etc. instead of standby

Re:Meanwhile, in the EU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253695)

CE is not a certification. It is a label required to be put on some types of products, by the manufacturer. It basically means two things:

  • * The product is required to have a CE label in Europe.
  • * The manufacturer claims the product complies with the appropriate regulation.

This is very different from actual certification labels like UL where you have to send your product to a 3rd party and they check it.

Re:Meanwhile, in the EU (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253789)

CE is certification, just not third party certification. If you certify that your devices are compliant (by putting the CE symbol on them), but they're really not, you're on the hook.

Re:Meanwhile, in the EU (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253865)

I went round my house with an energy meter and found almost zero use for everything except the Sky TV boxes. The recorder box used 35W and the plain decoder box used 17W. So no even within the EU, these boxes are terrible power hogs.

Not true (4, Insightful)

gavron (1300111) | about 3 months ago | (#47253533)

Number one consumer of electric power: Air conditioning unit. THOUSANDS OF WATTS
Number two consumer of electric power: Refrigerator. HUNDREDS OF WATTS

Cable boxes don't come in number two and they don't consume 35 watts.

So if you're keeping track not only is not "number 2" (a dubious distinction) but its use of electric power is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE below what's chewing up power. In fact, here in Arizona our A/C runs about 20 hours a day. That uses more power per day than the cable box uses in a year. I could ditch cable altogether (I have Comcast so it's a constant thought) and my power bill won't change by 1%.

How do I know? I use a http://www.amazon.com/P3-Inter... [amazon.com] kill-a-watt. The cable box draws less than 1 amp (12W) and that's while it's on and it's the big Motorola unit just like the picture in the original article.

Do you like facts and statistics and data upon which to base conclusions? You should get one of these kill-a-watts. They're awesome and they're quickto end stupid discussions that say you should unplug your cable box.

Off to unplug my wifi router. I hear it draws 0.5A.

E

Re:Not true (4, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 3 months ago | (#47253581)

Number one consumer of electric power: Air conditioning unit. THOUSANDS OF WATTS

But not running continuosly.

Number two consumer of electric power: Refrigerator. HUNDREDS OF WATTS

But not running continuously, either.

Cable boxes don't come in number two and they don't consume 35 watts.

Actually, lousy designs will happily guzzle 35W of power while "off", and year-round, that's slightly over 300 kWh. That's a bit more than my refrigerator uses.

How do I know?

Your sample size is one. That doesn't give you any kind of statistical significance.

Re:Not true (1)

gavron (1300111) | about 3 months ago | (#47253711)

> not running continuously.

No, I mentioned the AC only runs 20 hours out of the day. That's how it is in Arizona.
Daytime high of 110F. Nighttime low of 78F. We like the bedroom around 72F, so
yes, it runs except when nobody's home but then it has a bit of catchup to do.

The fridge does not run continously, but it faces the same battle. All the heat it puts
out causes the AC to run more. So there's no magic way for the fridge not to run.

My sample size is indeed one and is of no statistical significance. I urged everyone
to get a power meter and join in. Did you?

E

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47254017)

Your sample size is one. That doesn't give you any kind of statistical significance.

Uh, except this rando dude probably didn't cobble together their own telco gear. It was produced by the MILLIONS, no doubt about that. regardless of how it is ranked, a single piece of gear that pulls 35 watts 24/7/365 has room for improvement. Having 3 in a house is completely reasonable, and people who would never leave a 100w bulb burning all day and all night are right to finally wake up to this.

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253673)

> Number two consumer of electric power: Refrigerator. HUNDREDS OF WATTS

You use your fridge 24/7, and if you don't you might suffer food poisoning and die.

You use your cable box a few hours a day, and if you don't use it your health improves.

The problem is not that the box is using [insert number here], it's that it's using [insert any number larger than 0.1W here] when it's NOT BEING USED.

There is exactly zero excuse for using anything more than a trickle when no one is using it.

Re:Not true (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 3 months ago | (#47253785)

There is exactly zero excuse for using anything more than a trickle when no one is using it.

I would agree with this unless it has DVR capabilities. It has to be considered "in use" when it's recording a show
to watch later. A properly designed system should go to sleep during times when it's not actively recording a show
and have a low power watchdog schedule to wake it up at the appropriate time. If it's like a tivo and it randomly
records shows you "might" want to watch then this should be a setting you can disable to save electricity and
again, it should only be "on" when it has something to record and space to record it.

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253807)

The fridge compressor is not always on though (unless you leave the door open). The cable box is. It is calculus to determine which one uses more power.

Still, there are a bunch of examples of very bad engineering and they need to be called out. Both the fridge that has little to no insulation and the cable box/DVR that has the hard drive constantly spinning and fans running.

That doesn't even get into how bad home design is and how inefficient they are to save a few bucks in construction. It wouldn't take much to cut heating and cooling costs by 50% during construction and design.

We can go after the polluting power plants, but it is the devices and designs that we should be looking at.

Re:Not true (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253853)

Your Refrigerator is not constantly running. It runs when it is actively cooling, you know when the compressor kicks in. The compressor is not running all the time. People don't think.

zero control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253555)

It's called a power bar. With a mechanical switch.

Disingenuous Summary (4, Insightful)

clonehappy (655530) | about 3 months ago | (#47253569)

Which is it? 500 watts or 35 watts? This summary and title are completely ridiculous, I can think of plenty of other things that are using more power in my home than a cable box. Refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, hair blow dryer, desktop computer, television, central heating/air conditioning, range (if it's electric), power tools/garage, home theatre system, the list goes on and on.
 
The reason the "500 Watts!!!" is disingenuous, is because many cable boxes have a switched outlet that allow you to plug in a television set to the back of it. Back in the good ol' days, you could click on the cable box and the TV would turn on as well, if it was plugged into the back. That CRT might draw as much as 500 watts, so that's what it's rated for. With the advent of universal remotes, electronic controls in sets that forget the last power setting and the need for constant power to keep settings and "quick-on" for many sets, this is now an antiquated port that's just a hold over from the olden days of cable TV.
 
The STB might be the 2nd biggest energy user in many homes, but I wouldn't bet on *most* homes.

Re:Disingenuous Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253889)

Indeed my first though too. But also where do people get .5 kw washing machines from? I have an eco model and that still pulls 1.2 kw/h a wash with a startup peak of around 1600w.

Re:Disingenuous Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253945)

Most consumers don't run their washing machines 24/7

Re:Disingenuous Summary (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253893)

RTFA: "Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts — about the same as a washing machine."

"A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on."

So for the cognitively impaired, a cable subscriber noted the cable box was rated at 500 watts. The article did not state that it consumed 500 watts. Then the article went on to say tha a DVR can consume as much as 35 watts of powering per month which would cost Southern California consumer $8/month.

Pretty easy to understand when you READ THE FUDGING ARTICLE.

Re:Disingenuous Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253973)

Your list consists of things so rarely used, their Wh (watt-hour) use is FAR less than a cable box. Yes, annually air conditioning, refrigerator, dryer, electric heat, and an electric hot water heater use more. I doubt your tools and blow dryer (or let's say the average household) uses more than a DVR. I don't know about the TV, but I would assume that the DVR, which must be on most of the time, decrypts, stores, computes schedules, etc... uses more than a normal TV.

500 Watts for master/slave power relay, likely (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253573)

The 500W rating might have been for power passthrough (master/slave system) maybe?

My stereo can pass through power to e.g. a subwoofer, so only when I actually turn on the stereo the subwoofer is powered. The cable box could similarly have a power passhtrough for either the TV or the audio system, which is rated at 500 Watts.

Re:500 Watts for master/slave power relay, likely (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253905)

???? What pass through for what device? A DVR is not an a/v receiver. They do not drive speakers nor do they drive TVs. Jesus Christ people read the freaking article and check out your owners manual.

only going to get worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253591)

as more cable companies encrypt all signals - requiring cable boxes to receive any channel, even broadcast networks and 'expanded basic' (what formerly was accessible without any cable company supplied box with ordinary 'cable ready' televisions)..

so the solution here, of course, is to eliminate the need for cable boxes for the vast majority of subscribers that do not pay extra for premiums (hbo, showtime, etc), and carry channels in the clear (clearqam) and go back to tamper resistant connectors, lock boxes (both still in use by most providers), and in-line traps to regulate which channels are available on a per-drop (customer) basis. the technology is old, tried and true, and works.. even with phone and internet services on the same drop.. clearqam should be the 'new' cable ready standard.

How did she get these figures? (4, Informative)

drake2k (3458443) | about 3 months ago | (#47253605)

Just measured my old Scientific Atlanta box (that actually looks just like the ones in the article's pictures).

I get 8 Watts while running, 0.9 Watts in standby. It slightly peaks when I switch channels.

Re:How did she get these figures? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 3 months ago | (#47253787)

Is your Scientific Atlanta box a DVR? I have a feeling the real energy hogs are the DVR STB and not the basic boxes.

Re:How did she get these figures? (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253923)

For how long? A month? A week? A day? An hour? Duration is very important. The point of the article, which people can't seem to grasp, cable boxes are not energy efficient like other electronic devices and are on 24/7, which would mean making them energy efficient would save people money .

F*cking odd units of measurement... (4, Funny)

fisted (2295862) | about 3 months ago | (#47253607)

"four giant nuclear plants?" Dammit, that's extremely useless a unit of measurement.
Literally everyone should know by now that the standard SI unit for power consumption is medium-sized town.
So, how many medium sized town do those cable boxes consume in total?

Re:F*cking odd units of measurement... (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 3 months ago | (#47253705)

As opposed to the tiny cute nuclear plants that you can get in all sorts of different colors and patterns.

Re:F*cking odd units of measurement... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 3 months ago | (#47253827)

I just want to know what that is in elephants per football field.

Rating =/ Consumption (2)

Liquidretro (1590189) | about 3 months ago | (#47253611)

"Cheryl Williamsen, a Los Alamitos architect, has three of the boxes leased from her cable provider in her home, but she had no idea how much power they consumed until recently, when she saw a rating on the back for as much as 500 watts" Rating doesn't equal consumption. I can put a 1000W power supply in my computer but just watching youtube videos doesn't mean it's consuming all 1000W. It consumes far less than the 1000W unless the system demands it. Only way to know how much a device like this consumes is to measure it. One inexpensive way to do this is the KilloWatt meter.

Re:Rating =/ Consumption (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47253935)

Then the article goes on to say: "A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on."

So what you are saying is you stopped reading the article after the 3rd paragraph. Wow. Way to stay informed.

Bulldust... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253633)

Those things only consume a few Watts. This is just uninformed hyperbole.

Streaming devices (1)

zarmanto (884704) | about 3 months ago | (#47253635)

The world is rapidly moving away from the cable model... and the cable box itself is no exception. Therefore, the solution to this issue is pretty clear: transition away from big box cable endpoints to Roku or AppleTV endpoints. This moves customers into the future by shifting away from a DVR model to a streaming model, and it shifts away from insanely power-hungry boxes to devices which typically use about 1 to 3 watts at peak use.

(It's actually a simple solution to multiple problems. Unfortunately, the cable industry has been resisting these types of moves for so long, that even though they've effectively already lost this battle on multiple fronts, (for all practical purposes) they still resist just because of muscle memory.)

Re:Streaming devices (1)

Cheeze (12756) | about 3 months ago | (#47253743)

This causes so many more problems though. The nature of cable/air broadcast is the broadcast part. The signal is sent one to many. More people watching does not create any extra load on the system.

With a network-based solution though, the more people the more load, and I highly doubt most internet providers would be able to keep up. They are already complaining about Netflix, and that still has a small share of the home media viewing market.

UVERSE (1)

s122604 (1018036) | about 3 months ago | (#47253659)

I recently moved from a Comcast only area to a U-verse only area (monopolies yay!!!)
I figured the new, smaller u-verse box would be better on power, but the damn thing is quite warm to the touch, even when its "powered off" from the front panel when no one is watching TV.
I don't have the exact figure, but that heat is not getting created for free (especially in the summer when it has to be pumped outside by the AC).

I have taken to switching the power off at the power strip when I'm not watching. The only downside to that is there is a bit of a lag in my trip into the land of mindnumbing entertainment as the box has to boot up and figure out who it is each time.

Cable company's fault. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253669)

Basic problem is people rent them instead of buy.

The cable industry pushed for this because they don't want people owning their cable box - then we would have the legal right to modify them.

But because they own the box, they don't care how much WE pay for the electricity to run it.

dark fission homes (1)

davethomask (3685523) | about 3 months ago | (#47253699)

smells like dark fusion we got going on in 'ere?

500 Watts? Unlikely (1)

operagost (62405) | about 3 months ago | (#47253701)

I don't expect every end-user to be knowledgeable on electronic devices, but I do expect people who write these articles to be. That woman was probably reading the label on the power supply, which likely is capable of delivering 500W but the cable box is unlikely to consume that much. You're looking at an embedded processor that's a system-on-a-chip or close to it, support components (at most, video and ethernet), a small fan, a small phosphor display and, at most, two hard disks. We're talking 200W.

I've probably wasted too much time on this already, because the very next line of the article says "35 watts", which I think is actually far too low.

DirecTV is a major problem, potential solution... (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 3 months ago | (#47253747)

Currently, DirecTV has 6 models of STBs (set top boxes): three HD DVR, one HD non-DVR, one SD DVR, one SD non-DVR. Sending firmware upgrades to all of 6 device types adding a user-set deep-sleep mode would be amazing, the immediate effects of which would be massive nationwide! Generally, I don't have anything recording in the middle of the night--or it's a one-off repeat that I don't care about. Offer 4 simple options: 1) deep sleep & not record during user-specified times (e.g. 1am-7am and 11am-4pm); 2) not-so-deep-sleep and wake to record during specified times (e.g. wakes 10 minutes before a recording time); 3) sleep based on x-hours of inactivity; 4) no power management (e.g. for insomniacs).

Currently, my DirecTV HD-DVR (non-Genie) box offers a "lower power" mode that I can't adjust, that it goes into after 4 hours of inactivity. But I have no control over how the time is defined, etc. And it pointlessly reminds me that it went into low-power mode & I have to click out of it--something users may choose to disable just to not get that pointless annoyance...

Let's not forget that these devices are "computers" with power savings in the processors, motherboards, OSes (Linux?), hard drives, etc., that DirecTV, Comcast, and others chose not to enable. Let's face it, DirecTV, you're ~20% of the problem (based on US market share), now become part of the solution...

Oh, and one last thing... How the fuck do some of your boxes have the "Energy Star" logo??? Is it because the boxes themselves are efficient & you choose not to implement those efficiencies?

Re:DirecTV is a major problem, potential solution. (1)

Strider- (39683) | about 3 months ago | (#47253913)

Oh, and one last thing... How the fuck do some of your boxes have the "Energy Star" logo??? Is it because the boxes themselves are efficient & you choose not to implement those efficiencies?

Remember, the EnergyStar logo is pretty much meaningless. Heck, a few years ago a (fake) gasoline powered alarm clock [engadget.com] received the EnergyStar logo as part of an audit.

Re:DirecTV is a major problem, potential solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253933)

With the Genie additional TVs only need a super small STB. That is a HUGE power savings over the multi gigawatt cable boxes.

Hate to be the pesky self-righteous European again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253749)

But if your new TV has a standby power consumption of less than 1W, it's thanks to the EU "anti-market" behavior of simply requiring it and the effect spilling over to other markets. You know what to do.

500W is the switched outlet capacity (3, Informative)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | about 3 months ago | (#47253757)

She's reading the outlet capacity. No cable box draws 500W.

I can almost hear the hum and smell the ozone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47253849)

If they are anything like the boxes I just turned in to Time Warner I can imagine they take a monster amount of power. They looked (and functioned) like they were built in a Soviet area tractor factory. I just got DTV and there is one small DVR for my entire home and a super small (~1"x6"x6") box for each additional TV.

Us AV guys have known this for years. (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47253897)

Plop a "kill-a-watt" on your cable box and turn it on, note the power used. now hit the "off" button the remote. See how the power use did not drop. That is because "OFF" is simply blanking the screen and turning off the front led's and display.

It's why most pro AV installs will put the cable box if it's not a DVR type, on a power sequencer that the control processor will turn on and off with the system. The drawback is some of the newer cable boxes take forever to boot after power is restored.

Math is hard. (2)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | about 3 months ago | (#47254005)

A typical set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer.

A "typical Southern California consumer" pays less than 20 cents per kWh.

35 Watts * 24 hours/day * 30 days/month = 25,200 Watt hours or 25 Kilowatt hours.
25 Kilowatts * $0.20/Kilowatt hour = $5.00

Power Strip Power Off (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 3 months ago | (#47254007)

I have my LG 42" LCD, my ONKYO Receiver, and my Sony Blu-Ray all plugged into a power strip.
Connected to the them are a digital antennae for OTA, an ethernet connection for NetFlix, and a Linux pc for everything else.

Cable?
Satellite?

Are you kidding me?
Do people still pay for that crap?
Who are these people that stay beholden to the most despicable industry in America?

My linux pc goes to "sleep" when I'm not using it...
When I'm done with the rest of them, I power off the rest, then turn off the power strip.
I've been doing it this way for years...
Never had any issues, except with Sony's bullshit user/login setup on their Blu-Ray players, but that's another story...
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