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Cable boxes are second biggest energy sucker in most homes

Tuesday - 6/17/2014, 8:55am  ET

Cable box (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The cable box is the second biggest energy user in most households behind the air conditioner, the Los Angeles Times reports. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON -- Cable boxes let TV viewers around the country tune in to their favorite programs, but the appliances are sucking energy more than most household items in the process.

A cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month, according to The Los Angeles Times. Cable boxes are the second biggest energy drainer in many homes -- falling behind air conditioning.

The nation's 224 million cable boxes combined consume as much electricity as four nuclear reactors running around the clock, the LA Times reports.

The cable industry and conservationists have been debating the cable box in an effort to find a more efficient device.

The industry has pledged to voluntarily reduce power consumption in new devices -- a move that would save consumers $1 billion a year, according to the LA Times. Americans are spending more than $12 billion a year on powering devices.

Cable boxes consume so much energy because, even when they are turned off, there are spinning hard drives, program guide updates and software downloads. While users could unplug the cable box, doing so requires a lengthy and convoluted reboot.

"It is a very tough case to make to tell consumers don't use these devices," Severin Borenstein, director of the UC Energy Institute, said to the LA Times. "People, as they get wealthier, are getting new toys and almost all of the things we do use electricity."

Energy experts say the boxes could be just as efficient as smartphones or laptop computers that use a less power because of microprocessors and other technology that conserves electricity.

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