Vampire staked by gadget
As recently reported, I had a rabid vampire at my house: my set-top box and DVR combination. It is designed to be on all the time, so it consumes as much energy when Im not using it as when I am. This lack of a true sleep mode is my main beef with the combo device, so I set out to fix it.
My quest led me to a trusted energy efficiency gadget, the outlet timer, a device that switches an outlets power on and off at pre-set times. I last purchased one of these about 15 years ago for holiday lights. Wow, have they changed since then!
The basic purpose of the device to switch an outlet and hence everything plugged into it on and off at pre-set times has not changed. Now, however, they are electronic and programmable. The one I chose allows for up to 28 different on/off events, each of which can be programmed by time and by weekday/weekend day, day of the week, and other parameters. It also includes an override button, a battery backup to keep the timer running in case of power failure, two device plugs, and a compact design that doesnt cover up the second wall outlet.
Given my familys TV patterns, I programmed the timer to switch on my DVRs power on at 2pm and off at 11:45pm Monday through Friday. Saturday morning, it comes on at 10am and stays on through Sunday night at 11:45pm. (I decided to keep it on throughout Saturday night just in case theres a magic programming update or software download that happens only in the wee hours.)
Im happy to report its working great. Ive cut my DVRs energy use in half and havent had any mishaps whatsoever.
To be sure, this solution removes some of my DVRs functionality. Specifically:
* I cant make ad hoc recordings in the middle of the night or early on weekdays without performing a manual device override. Also, if the DVR discovers a show its supposed to record, it will only do so if the power is on at recording time.
* If the DVRs power is off and we decide to watch a program, there is a five-minute delay while the box repowers itself, finds the satellite, and runs diagnostics. Our small kitchen TV, however, is available for such emergencies.
* Upon repowering, my DVRs memory buffer is empty, so there is no opportunity to rewind if I power it up off-cycle.
* If I remotely program my DVR with a phone or computer while the DVR is off, the remote software will tell me my recording has been scheduled, but this is not the case. Remote programming only works when the DVRs power is on.
I am completely happy with these compromises. Still, my provider could do a much better job including the capabilities I want than Ive achieved here.
Most people acquire programmable DVRs as part of a service package, either from their TV signal provider (cable/satellite) or from an independent programming service (TiVo). Often as not, the devices which come with the service package are ordered sight (and specs) unseen. So its critically important that informed consumers let their providers know that vampires dont belong in our living rooms and bedrooms. Let yours know. I hope they take notice.
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