You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Cable Box Ate My Budget

If you’re like my family, you have a DVR in your house. Those wonderful little boxes of commercial-skipping, season-passing, "I’ll watch 'The Killing' when I want" goodness. Well, it turns out those magical little boxes are wreaking havoc on our disposable income.

Via the always-on-point Lifehacker, air conditioning is not the only component in your surging summer utility bill. Yes, our television addiction is another seemingly unlikely culprit. According to research (PDF) from The National Resources Defense Council, the nation’s cable boxes require some serious juice:

What we found was startling: In 2010, set-top boxes in the United States consumed approximately 27 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual output of nine average (500 MW) coal-fired power plants. The electricity required to operate all U.S. boxes is equal to the annual household electricity consumption of the entire state of Maryland, results in 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and costs households more than $3 billion each year.

After reading arresting numbers like that, one’s gut reaction is to unplug cable boxes whenever possible. And that’s certainly a good start. But there’s another, bigger lesson in this information: We just don’t know how much energy we’re using.

In tight financial times like these, we must find ways to save American households money. We need more immediate consumer tools to facilitate smart power usage; there’s got to be a better answer than manually unplugging all of our electronics before locking the door. For example, the NRDC brief outlines a new form of whole-home cable. We can also set a goal to get smart meters in more homes, which will require some serious infrastructure investments at all levels. And there are  many more ideas when dealing with energy policy broadly. It’s just imperative we do something because right now the environment and consumers are losing.

Even with this news, I’m not giving up my DVR anytime soon. It’s just starting to look like daytime recordings are a thing of the past. Good thing "PTI" replays on ESPN2 at 6:30.