Unexpected Energy Savings from Eliminating Cable TV!
June 4th, 2009 by steve

Like everybody we’re trying to save some money these days and after much deliberation, Jocelyn and I decided we could do without live sports (or at least we could watch them in public somewhere) and so we decided to get rid of all but high speed internet access from the cable company.  I realize this solution isn’t for everybody, but we had 2 DVRs (living room/bedroom) and a regular box (guest room) and, although this wasn’t a factor in our choice, the biggest surprise was we lowered our baseload electricity usage by about 100/110 watts.  I figured this out using TED our energy monitor. (www.theenergydetective.com)

Our TED Energy Monitor

Our TED Energy Monitor

TED works great for keeping an eye on your baseline average use, and for monitoring peaks in your usage.  I’ve never tried the Kill a Watt (www.p3international.com) but I’m planning to get one to check out individual devices with more accuracy which should be particularly helpful for determining “phantom” power draws of chargers and lamps and things.  The TED only has a 10 watt resolution so it doesn’t register the effect of small things like trickle chargers and LED clocks.

Anyway, I did the math and determined that, only factoring in the base load savings, getting rid of cable will probably save us almost 2 months of electricity at our current usage of just under 400KWH a month.  Not having an “always needs to be on” DVR also allowed me to install a switching power strip to the TV area where the amplifier alone draws a whopping 30 watts when it’s off!

How do we survive without cable TV?  The first crisis came when I came home and realized I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TIME IT WAS!  Yup, that ubiquitous cable box clock provides an atomic accurate time stamp that’s become the standard for BBQ timing and New Years revelry alike!  So first we got a clock and put it in the empty space where the DVR used to be.  Then we hooked up a ROKU box (www.roku.com) and an Apple TV.  The ROKU box streams content from your Netflix account and also allows you to buy or rent off the Amazon website.  The Apple TV let’s you view content from your I-Tunes account as well as buy or rent from the I-Tunes store.  The streamable selections in Netflix are pretty limited but we’ve been watching tons of interesting documentaries (these make great background while we’re preparing our home cooked meals made with farm fresh ingredients from Totman’s CSA!)  We also watched the first two seasons of 30 Rock in a crack-like frenzy when we first hooked ROKU up.  Lately we’ve been watching the new season by buying it on Apple TV but are doling it out an episode a week so as to savor it more.  (We learned our lesson during the bleak couple of weeks we withdrew from the first two seasons of 30 Rock!)  It’s an extra buck for HD so after testing the SD wide screen format vs HD,  we’ve been opting for the SD signal which looks great.  Apple TVs streams and downloads look a LOT better than those you get from Amazon right now, so I’m a big fan of the Apple TV and can’t quite figure out why everybody doesn’t have one.

I also got special cables to connect my MacBook Pro to the TV and we’ve been watching the latest season of CSI on streaming downloads from IMDB for FREE!  These are shown with commercials (hence the free part) but so far they’re only showing one every break.

But the biggest lesson we’ve learned is how much energy we were sucking up 24/7/365 with an accurate time-clock being the only justifiable outcome.  I think even if we went back to Cable again I’d probably put the DVR on a programmable timer so it wouldn’t have to be on all the time.  So hopefully this will encourage you all to think about your energy suckers and dump them or put a switch on them today!

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