“How much energy does my TV use?”

The good news is TV sets are getting more and more energy efficient. The new flat screens are far less of an energy drain than their cathode ray tube predecessors. In fact, technological tweaks over the past few years have improved these flat screens’ efficiency by up to 60%. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news: the DVRs, cable boxes and other accessories that we hook up to our plasma TVs. These little boxes have become the single biggest electricity cost on the American home. Today’s combined entertainment centers oftentimes eat up more power than a 21 cubic foot refrigerator or an entire central air conditioner system.

Although, these sleek black boxes look innocent enough, they are total energy hogs. It is estimated that a high-definition DVR and high-def cable box will use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council concludes that these little TV boxes consume $3 billion in electricity a year in the U.S. alone.

The problem with these digital boxes? They run 24 hours a day. There is no stand–by mode. So once they are plugged in they just suck power.

Are there any work–arounds?  Sure. You can unplug these devices when you go to bed and plug them back in each morning. However, the reboot and load time is incredibly slow. The best fix? Don’t buy them. Try to get by with antenna fed TV programming only. Remember, your flat screen is efficient. It’s those little black boxes that are running up your electric bills.