Friday, July 8, 2011

Of Energy Drains (Part II)

Speaking of that which needlessly drains energy, the National Resources Defense Counsel has published a study [PDF, sorry] showing that box-top DVRs will soon destroy the biosphere by consuming too large a share of the world's energy. On average, they report, a set-top HD DVR will chew through 275 KwH per year (a terrifying quantity, or so I gather), a surprisingly large share of that chewing while the machine is in an 'off' state.

There's the rub, of course -- by design, these machines don't have a true 'off' state. They are designed to sit there like ambush predators waiting to pounce on and record all the tee-vee programs and movies you can't be bothered to watch when they're broadcast if only because they're too overloaded with commercials to bear -- in other words, nearly all of the tee-vee programs and movies you can be bothered to watch. If you unplug the DVR -- achieving the true 'off' that will cut power consumption down to zero -- you thereby defeat the purpose and miss those idiotically-timed broadcasts of, say, Hunger and Louie and A Clockwork Orange*, which the networks tend to play at times tailored to reach those viewers who don't sleep at night and/or don't work during the day. For the non-trust-fund-non-insomniacs among us, to go without a DVR is to waste all that money we're wasting on cable. Surely you can see the bind we're in.

Unwilling (for purposes of this blog post) to accept the NRDC's statistics on faith, I checked it with my own Kill-a-Watt device as applied to my Motorola HD DVR. I found that it used 1.73 KwH over 62.1 hours (62 hrs 6 min) of "typical" use spanning a Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening, a period that included plenty of 'off' time. That maps out to a little over 244 KwH over the 8766-hour year, which is tolerably close to NDRC's number, and frighteningly close to this guy's measurement of the same thing.

It would be nice to think the cable companies will move to more energy-efficient devices, or give their customers the chance to purchase and use more energy-efficient devices on their networks, or that people like me can finally be persuaded that cable tee-vee is a game that's not worth the candle. I would be nice to think a lot of things. For now, inasmuch as DVRs-as-energy-drains is a problem, I am very much part of it.

* These are three actual examples of items currently stored on my DVR, as my minders at the local cable monopoly no doubt know.

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