$3 billion in electricity.
That’s how much energy set-top boxes – the ubiquitous household device that liaisons between signal and television – consume in the United States per year. Even more shocking is that 66 percent of that energy (about $2 billion worth) is used when no one is even around to enjoy the actual televisions set-top boxes enable.
It seems almost parasitic.
What adds insult to injury is that we’re gulping down energy for something that even the best marketer couldn’t package as a basic human need. It’s like we’ve got energy to burn.
In case you are curious, this data is from a recently released study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). And folks at The New York Times have been paying close attention, covering the topic in a variety of articles since the study’s release.
Simple awareness can be a powerful instrument of change. And often big gains are born of small actionable changes in our behavior. Here are a few ways you can reduce the drain:
• Unplug your entertainment devices after use. My grandparents used to do this, fearing a bolt of lightening would enter through the TV. My thrifty host in Ireland used to do this, though I filed it under “Betty’s unusual customs,” along with No Water Pressure Is a Gift, Hands-Off the Washing Machine and Don’t Tell the Exchange Student the Security Code.
• Make sure the set-top box is set to an energy-efficient mode. Many boxes have this setting, but most providers won’t offer to set it up that way. Ask them to—even if they have to come back to do it.
• Tell your provider that you want what Europeans have: “Europe’s Sky TV offers its customers a DVR box that uses 22.5 watts when fully on, 13.2 watts when in light sleep mode and less than one watt when in deep sleep mode, which you can set to coordinate with your own deep sleep mode.” (“Dracula Lurks in Your Set-Top Box,” by Joanna M. Foster, The New York Times)
• Switch to other methods of TV viewing, such as Web-based Hulu. That’s what my family does, and it suits us fine. We got rid of our last actual television set last year (purchased in 1998). We appreciate the fact that we can close up the laptop when the show’s over.
Of course, set-top boxes aren’t the only energy-drain culprits, but at $3 billion in energy consumption, it’s an excellent place to focus attention. We can do so much better than this. We’d be fools not to.
Check out this handy fact sheet from the NRDC on the energy consumption of set-top boxes: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/settopboxes.pdf