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Monday, June 27, 2011

The National Resources Defense Council says your cable set top box and your DVR suck more energy than your refrigerator.

I've noticed that my DVR is always on. This is frustrating. Most of the time I'm not using it. But it is on. I can turn it off, but once it wakes to record something, it stays on. Of course I can't turn it off from the power strip, because it wouldn't be able to record anything. Also, for some reason, it takes over ten minutes for it to download the program guide, which shouldn't be more than 10KB.

At least it takes a moment to spin up its hard drive; I gather American DVR's just leave them spinning.

They calculate an HD DVR at 446 KwH per year. That's about $25 at my rates, which are probably lower than yours because I live in a hydro power utopia. (I pay around 6 cents a KwH. Americans pay 12. New Yorkers pay 20.) What the NRDC report doesn't mention is that your DVR is also heating the house -- all that energy winds up as heat -- so if you're air conditioning during the summer months, you have to spend more to recool. Not a big problem in Montreal, but it must suck extra in Phoenix.

As the NRDC report makes clear, this is easy to fix. European DVRs go into standby when they're not playing video. They use 50% less electricity. My computer sleeps when it's not busy; it can go for a couple of days in standby, on battery. Engineers could obviously solve this problem in a jiff.

This is a classic case for why government should intervene in markets. No one is going to make "standby mode" their number one priority in buying a DVR -- even assuming people have any choice at all, which I, as a Bell Expressvu customer, don't. But if all set top boxes and DVRs had to go into a low-power standby mode after, say, an hour of idle time, we'd all save a lot of money. And, oh yeah, the environment.



If your DVR is anything like mine, then it's recording 24/7 while powered on. And it may not be, but the ones that Dish make are like that.

Anytime you put it on a channel, it starts recording a live buffer so that you can rewind to the point when you started watching. New channel, throw out the old temporary recording and start a new one. Leave it on channel X for five minutes, and you can rewind five minutes worth.

I love this feature. Anytime you hear or see something you want to see again, but you weren't recording the program you're watching, you can still rewind and see it again.

"Also, for some reason, it takes over ten minutes for it to download the program guide, which can't be more than 10KB, if that"

That's pretty crazy, but it's a lot more data than that. When I had a homemade DVR (a PC sitting next to the TV with a capture card) I'd have to download the program guide data from a pay service online. It was between 30-60MB (I can't remember because it has been so long) for 14 days worth.

It should still go faster than that though. Our new Dish hardware took five minutes to get the guide data the first time when it was activated. What gives?

By Blogger Paul William Tenny, at 3:10 PM  

Off topic but I figured I'd share because screenwriters could probably use this. Course PTR is giving away two copies of book on Celtx, the free screenwriting software. You can enter here for a chance to win.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:35 AM  

Yeah, like most things, the old VCR eats way too much and will be replaced soon. They should mandate at least 80% efficiency on power supplies. Mandate things to kill vampire energy loss, and replacement blocks with smart ones that only drain when somethings plugged in/turned on. Stop putting clocks on every single electronic device for the home. Put on lights on the boxes and Off should be no light. Stand-by (as opposed to off) should be mandated to California's standard of 1 watt or less. I switched from a desktop to a laptop and use about a third of the energy, it will recoup its cost in three years, and of course its more portable. I need to put in a led TV too, that should drop a bit of power. Saves energy and money off the bill.

By Blogger Hugo Fuchs, at 5:54 PM  

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