Does your cable box stay warm all the time, even when its turned off?  That’s a sure sign that it’s wasting a lot of energy.

Set-top boxes (also known as “cable boxes”) may not seem like big power users, especially compared to your TV.  But in fact, according to a recent NRDC study, the higher-end boxes eat up more electricity than a new refrigerator, and even the more basic set-top boxes use almost as much power as a 42″ flat screen TV!     

The problem is that most set-top boxes use nearly as much power in stand-by mode as they do when they’re actually working.    And throughout the country, that adds up to a lot of wasted power and money–according NRDC’s study, stand-by mode operation of set-top boxes costs consumers about $2 billion per year.  That’s 2/3 of the total cost to run the box!    The only way to avoid the power drain?  Unplug the box–not exactly convenient.  

The Department of Energy has recently started the process to require set-top boxes to lower the amount of surplus energy squandered during stand-by mode.  Set-top boxes certainly waste a lot of energy, and Consumers Union supports including set-top boxes in DOE’s successful efficiency program that has already saved consumers billions of dollars in energy costs for other appliances and electronics.  There’s no good reason set-top boxes can’t improve stand-by power usage like other electronics. 

In addition, Consumers Union’s Telecomm Advocacy team has urged the FCC for more retail competition in set-top boxes so consumers have options to purchase boxes other than through the cable company.   More competition and better energy efficiency are a winning combination to save consumers money!