A black cable box sits on a table.

There are lots of people out there with ancient set-top boxes for their cable and satellite TV service. If you’re one of them, here’s why you should trade it in for an upgrade.

Old Set-Top Boxes Are Energy Vampires

If you just recently got new set-top boxes from your cable provider or satellite service, this article probably doesn’t apply to you. Though we do hope you read through it anyway with an eye towards helping any friends or relatives with old set-top boxes.

If you’ve had the same set-top boxes for years, however, you’re exactly the person that should be reading this article and acting on the information within.

Historically, set-top boxes were shockingly big energy vampires. There was little focus on energy efficiency and, unbelievably, many people were using more electricity per year on their DVRs and cable boxes than they did running their refrigerators or other large appliances.

Thanks to some lobbying and agreements with cable and satellite providers, however, modern set-top boxes use less energy than they did years ago. Where it was common for set-top boxes to use up to 35W per box of standby power, now it’s more like 14W on average and 5W on the low end.

That’s great for the environment and great for lowering people’s electric bills. But it’s not great for lowering your electric bill unless you trade in your old boxes.

How Much Will Trading In Your Cable Box Save?

Let’s say, for the sake of example, that your older model cable or satellite box uses 25W of standby power and a newer model from your provider only uses 5W of power.

At 12 cents per kWh, if you calculate the power use of a single 25W cable box over time, you’ll find it consumes $26.28 per year just sitting there. Reduce the standby power draw to 5W, and the yearly standby cost drops to $5.26.

So just by switching your box to a more energy-efficient model, you save about $21 a year—likely getting access to updated hardware and better features in the process.

P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt

From TV to your fridge, you can use this handy little meter to measure how much energy your devices and appliances use.

And the more boxes in your home you replace, the more you’ll save. Swap out a box in the den, the basement rec room, and two bedrooms, and you’ll save $84 a year on your electric bill.

Curious about how much your current set-top box uses? While you can always look up the model number online to see if either your provider or a curious DIYer has provided the standby power consumption stats, you can always check how many watts your cable box uses with our favorite power monitoring tool, the Kill a Watt.

If your set-top boxes are more than a few years old, it’s absolutely worth checking how much power they use and upgrading to newer and more efficient models.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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