Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

October 20, 2009

How to Tame Your DVR’s Appetite for Energy: Starve It

Category: Household,Save Electricity,Tips – Tom Harrison – 7:56 pm

My cousin Alison wrote me an email this evening asking how she could stop her always-on DVR (the “not-a-TiVo®” things cable companies will rent) from gobbling electricity.

Here’s her email,

I am trying to do my next round of tightening up and have read all the stuff about turning off your “always on” appliances, but after much googling couldn’t find the answer to my real question: if I turn off my cable box, will my dvr stop recording?

So then I remembered—aha, my cousin Tom’s website.

And spent a little more time surfing around there, which was incredibly informative and pleasant BUT I still couldn’t find the answer.

So then I thought I’d take the lazy way out and just ask you.

Will it?

Your very very pale green cousin


To which I promptly and thoughtfully replied

Yes, it will stop recording.

However, consider the following tip: if you have nothing to record between, say midnight to 4pm, you can do this:

1) Plug everything (TV, Cable Box, DVD Player, whatever) into a power strip
2) Plug the power strip into a light timer
3) Set the light timer to turn off at midnight and on at 4pm
4) plug the light timer into the wall

Then, not only will you miss little or nothing, you will get rid of the power of the cable box and the standby power of the TV and whatever else, and have the whole system off for two-thirds of the day.

Light timers and power strips can be bought at drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores or online.

Your friendly neighborhood energy conservation cousin,



  1. One extra thing: In my experience, a combined DVR+cable box can take as long as 45 minutes to download all of the channel and guide information: This is Comcast in Cambridge, Mass. It stinks. But it means that if one’s DVR is on a timer, you’d want it to power up quite a bit before you would want to watch something on it.

    Comment by John — October 23, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  2. Do you mean a cable box plus external DVR (e.g. TiVo), as opposed to the DVR in a CableBox you can rent?

    In the former case, time to get a new TiVo — ever since they started doing HD, they accept a CableCARD (two actually) which entirely replaced my (pig of a) cable box; the new TiVo (well, a couple years old now) is much more efficient than the Motorola cable box.

    In the latter case (cable box is also a DVR) get a TiVo. Ours reboots in about 3 minutes and is clever enough to remember what it downloaded last time. Is it really the case that a power outage causes the Cable DVR to forget all of the channels? Lame! Get a TiVo.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — October 23, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  3. I have a Dish Network DVR/satellite box that lets me program the time of day (night actually) that it downloads programming data. So I set it to 1:30am. Then I set my timer to turn off the whole entertainment system (32 Watt total when “off”) at 2:00am. It turns on in time for the 6:00pm news. That saves a LOT of kWh/month.

    Here’s the digital timer that I use. About $10 and has a button for manual override and battery backup. Sweet:

    Comment by Guy Marsden — December 14, 2009 @ 11:14 am

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