Something to ponder as we approach Father’s Day Weekend, a weekend when the television remote control will likely be hijacked by the family patriarch and you may very well find yourself forced to hunker down with Pop and endure reruns of “Gunsmoke,” “Antiques Road Show” and “The L Word."

According to a recent report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, newfangled HD-DVR cable boxes consume more power than new, EnergyStar-rated refrigerators. Wow. Always-on HD-DVR cable boxes consume a staggering 446 kilowatt hours per year compared to the 416 kWh of energy drawn annually by a new model refrigerator. To put things further into pespective, CFL light bulbs consume 17 kWh/year and a 42” LCD TV with EnergyStar-approval consumes 180.5 kWh/year.

According to the report, titled “Better Viewing, Lower Energy Bills, and Less Pollution: Improving the efficiency of Television Set-Top Boxes,” cable company-provided set-top boxes suck nearly as much energy as when the TV is turned off as they do when they're helping you keep up with the Kardashians.

The electricity required to operate the 160 million cable boxes installed in U.S. households — about 80 percent of American households subscribe to some sort of pay TV — is equivalent to the annual household electricity consumption of the entire state of Maryland and is responsible for the emission of 16 million metric tons of CO2 each year. All and all, Americans collectively spend $3 billion a year to keep HD-DVR boxes running 24/7. Two-thirds of that is spent when cable boxes are not actively being used but continue to draw as much energy as six power plants.

Explains NRDC senior scientist Noah Horowitz in a press release:

Set-top boxes are the ultimate home energy vampires, silently sucking significant amounts of energy and money when nobody’s using them. 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.

And I thought the price gouging and horrendous service was bad enough (hello there, Time Warner Cable!) ….

Read the NRDC’s report here.


Graph: Natural Resources Defense Council

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

NRDC: Cable boxes guzzle more energy than new refrigerators
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