DVR set top boxes using more power than your standard refrigerator

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The big headline maker in recent times is the cost of fuel for our cars and trucks, but another big concern for many consumers is the cost of running our homes. With gasoline prices rocketing some may be able to cut back on the amount of driving they do, but it’s not always so easy cutting back on power consumption in our homes. In many US homes a DVR set top box uses more power than your standard fridge.

These types of set top boxes have become extremely popular in recent times with around 160 million of them in the US alone, according to Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times. Many people now have the more advanced DVR set top boxes in their homes which use around 40% more power than the standard set top box.

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A recent study has discovered that having a HD DVR and a HD cable box uses around 446 kilowatt hours in a year. This is about 10% more than a 21 cubic-foot refrigerator; this is because they are normally running 24 hours a day with their hard drives constantly whirring away.

The study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the boxes used $3 billion in electricity each year in the US. A big proportion of this power around 66% is wasted as some of the shows recorded are not even watched. The state of Maryland doesn’t use that much power in twelve months.

Critics say that the problem is down to the way the units are designed and can easily be fixed without much cost. It is also the way cable networks work in the US, and even though fixes are available they are not being used.

European markets have similar devices but automatically go into standby mode after not being used for a while. This cuts down power consumption by half, and can also be put into deep sleep which can further reduce consumption by 95% compared to when the unit is switched on.

Pace who are based in the UK supply boxes to American cable providers don’t use power saving options. This is because US providers worry that customers won’t want to wait for the time it takes to restart the system after it has been shut down. Boxes in Europe which are low energy units come back to life in one or two minutes.

Currently set top boxes have Energy Star standards which are set by The Environmental Protection Agency, and these standards are set to be higher by 2013. Many of the boxes which meet the current standards don’t have an automatic sleep or standby mode. They are also not designed to be turned off completely as it takes time to reboot and connect with the cable or satellite network.

The problem can cost the average US household more than $10 per month if they have many devices, but the cost of electricity can be a lot less in the US compared to Europe. In the future it could depend on the service provider if they want their boxes to automatically go into standby mode, or if owners can adjust settings themselves.

Trouble is providers currently do system updates and maintenance overnight, so having a box which is always on is more convenient for them. Many consumers won’t be too worried that their DVR uses more power as it provides great convenience compared to the days of the video recorder. Does the amount of electricity your DVR uses worry you?