By now you've probably heard about vampire energy loads (also known as standby power). I'm sure you've seen the articles on news sites or environmental sites describing how much energy vampire loads consume. And if everyone in the world would just unplug their vampire loads we'd save bazillions of kWh's and prevent a gajillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. But for the most part I don't harp on vampire loads because in the grand scheme of your home energy consumption, vampire loads aren't near as important as focusing on your heating/cooling and lighting consumption.
However, there is one vampire load that towers above the rest, and that is your Cable Box!
I have two cable boxes in the house: a DVR high definition and non-DVR regular definition. Using my Kill-A-Watt I determined that the DVR cable box consumes 30 Watts while plugged in and my non-DVR box consumes 10 Watts while plugged in. The combined 40 watts that these two boxes consume is close to the equivalent of leaving 3, 14-watt CFLs turned on!
I estimate that we watch about 2 hours of TV a day (30 minutes on the non-DVR box in the morning and 1.5 hrs on the DVR box at night - this is a high estimate). So, to figure out how much energy we waste each day by leaving our cable boxes plugged in while we aren't watching TV:
(30 Watts)*(22.5 hrs) + (10 Watts)*(23.5 hrs) = 910 Watt-hrs/day = .91 kWh/day
I pay about 10 cents/kWh, so in order to calculate how much the vampire energy the cable boxes use costs me:
(.91 kWh/day)*(10 cents/kWh)*(365 days/year) = $33.22/year
In May of 2010 I put up a blog about using an electronic timer to limit the amount of time your lights and electrical appliances stay on. In December of 2009 we featured a blog post about controlling vampire loads (specifically a cable box) with an electronic timer. The cost of the electronic timer is about $20, so if you have a similar situation to me and you purchased 2 timers for both cable boxes you would see about a 1.5 year payback on your electronic timer investment.
At this point, you just have to weigh the cost of turning your cable boxes off against the chance that you might cause the DVR box to not record one of your wife's favorite shows! This is actually why I'm hesitant to put an electronic timer on our DVR box; I'm afraid I'll mess up our recordings! This is not an issue with the non-DVR box. It would sure be nice if you could program your cable boxes to go into a standby mode in certain hours of the night (much like you can program your thermostat). Another option would be to get a system like the one offered by Computerized Electricity Systems that lets you monitor and control each outlet in your home! You could just program the outlet that your cable box is plugged into to be off during the time you are sleeping or at work.
If you're serious about going after your vampire loads, then the cable box should be the first one you try to slay.