A study released by the Natural Resources Defence Council in the U.S. reveals that the average set-top boxes that television-subscribers have near their televisions cost at least $4 per month in electricity. In certain regions in the U.S. where electricity costs are much higher, this number could be as high as $10 per month, or $120 per year. These numbers exceed the cost to run most household refrigerators and air conditioners.
What's most disturbing about these high costs however, is that these devices use almost as much energy they aren't being used:
Today's set-top boxes operate at near full power even when the consumer is neither watching nor recording a show. As a nation, we [the U.S.] spend $2 billion each year to power these boxes when they are not being actively used.
In terms of North America's power grid, these set top boxes consume over 18 billion kilowatt hours.
More than seven power plants could not sustain that level of power, even if running 24/7 every day of the year. The combined electric use of Alberta and British Columbia in a year would still not match the power consumption of every set top box in North America.
Part of the reason these boxes use so much energy has to do with how they are used. Users don't realize how much energy they soak up, so they don't realize that they are something that should be turned off. They also take a couple of minutes to boot up before they can be used -- like any other household computer with a hard drive -- which is something that consumers aren't used to dealing with when they want to watch TV. And, the only way to really turn them off is to unplug them from the wall.
Also, the novelty of having a DVR box is in the fact that the device constantly records footage. This is what allows viewers to skip through commercials or replay anything that was missed. Turning the box off to save power would take away from this benefit.
Digital video recorders (DVRs) use about 40% more energy than their non-recording counterparts. With more households upgrading their boxes to ones with recording capability, this is an energy issue that is only growing in concern.