Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

June 25, 2014

Cable Boxes Consume The Electrical Output of Four Nuclear Reactors



According to the LA Times. cable boxes are the second largest household consumers of electricity, only exceeded by air conditioners. Up to 500 watts of electricity per device, even when they are supposedly turned off. Bet you didn’t know that.

In the middle of the night, when most Americans are sound asleep, their lights and appliances off, a power hog is wide awake and running at nearly full throttle: the boxes that operate their cable or satellite television service.

The seemingly innocuous appliances — all 224 million of them across the nation — together 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.

During a call to my local provider Comcast, the customer service rep told me there was no one at Comcast who could answer how much electricity was used by each of the boxes the company rents to me. I would have to ask my electricity company. But oh, yes indeed, the boxes never turn off so long as they are plugged in. “They are just like a desktop PC, or an alarm clock,” she added.  Well, no not exactly according to the Times story, more like a washing machine that is running 24 hours a day.

Apparently there is a relatively inexpensive fix that the cable companies could provide, the same ones installed in the aforementioned PCs, in smart phones and other energy efficient electronic equipment. If only there was consumer demand. Consumer demand would, of course, require consumer knowledge, which so far has been in short supply.  Here’s hoping the media pick up on this.

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