Cable boxes use almost as much energy turned off as they do turned on

They're the second biggest energy hogs for many households

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Cable boxes, particularly those with DVR features, are surprisingly enormous energy hogs, even when they're turned off. They're worse left on standby then even desktop computers and computer accessories or audio mini systems, and only trail air conditioners when it comes to power consumptions for millions of homes.

Cable boxes energy use

Photo by LA Times

LA Times reports that cable DVR boxes use as much as 35 watts of power every month, which amounts to about $8 a month for someone in Southern California--that's $96 a year. The boxes use nearly as much energy when off because the hard drives are constantly spinning, updating the program guide and downloading software updates or recording shows.

Yet the devices could be much more energy efficient, and the cable industry has agreed to reduce the power consumption of these set-top boxes. However, it could take years for that to happen. (And this has been a hot issue for at least the last three years.)

Unfortunately, the only solution in the interim is to unplug the device when you're not using it. That's tough both because booting up takes a while and because DVRs have to be on to record your shows. For all other cable boxes, however, such as the ones not needed for recording programs, consider unplugging the device to lower your energy bill.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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