Tag Archives: canceling cable TV

The surprising electricity drain that’s costing Americans billions per year

What’s the biggest electricity drain in the United States? Refrigerators that run non-stop? HD televisions? Nope. According to a story in the New York Times on Sunday, it’s your cable box.

These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use. The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months.

Because they’re constantly connected to the network and receiving updates, set-top cable boxes continue to suck energy even when they’re turned “off.” The only way to stop the drain is to unplug the box entirely.

Unplugging the box may create a slight lag when you’re ready to watch television again, but it could save you as much as $10 a month. At the very least, it’s essential that you unplug the box if you’re leaving for vacation. There’s no sense spending money and wasting energy on something you’re not even using.

Why are you still paying for cable?

For the record: I am not being compensated in any way by Netflix, PlayStation, or anyone else to write this post. I am just sharing our setup, and I welcome your tips and recommendations in the comments for how you get around paying a cable bill.

Once upon a time, cable television was one of our only planned indulgences. We knew it was expensive, but we liked it. We thought it saved us money by keeping up entertained at home, and we liked having something to watch in the evening.

In September, we finally cut the cable, and we cut $60 out of our monthly entertainment budget. Around Christmas time, our future brother-in-law gifted us a Playstation 3 that he wasn’t using, which enabled us to stream Netflix to our television. Using a simple rabbit ear antenna, our television picks up all of the network stations in perfect digital HD. Now there is very little we could get from cable that we’re not getting from our current setup.

Current television shows

For our favorite TV shows that are currently on the air, we have two options. Sometimes if we’re home at the right time and we’re not busy, we just tune in live. We’re busy, though, and we’re reformed DVR addicts. So what do we do if we miss the network broadcast of 30 Rock or Lost? We stream it on Hulu or the network’s website whenever we want to watch it.


One of our favorite things about Netflix Instant Play is that we’ve been able to catch up on TV shows we never watched. For instance, after listening to the hype about “Lost” for years, we discovered that all six previous seasons were available on Netflix in December. Beginning around Christmas and continuing until February, we caught up on all six seasons in a few months. Bonus? No annoying cliff hangers.


For movies, we have also two options: Netflix Instant Play, which offers a huge list of movie and TV show options, or Netflix by mail, which is where we get newer releases. If we decide to watch a new release at the spur of the moment, there’s always Redbox.

If you’re considering kicking cable, I promise: you will not miss it. Thanks to all of the entertainment technology available today, you have plenty of options to keep yourself entertained.

Netflix Instant Play is also available on XBox and (soon) Wii. If you’re not a gamer, or you don’t want to drop a few hundred dollars on a video game console, you could also get a Roku player for $100. It will work the same as a video game console for streaming movies, but you won’t have the option to play games.

Digital broadcast TV is impressive

tv antennaIt’s been a while since I’ve updated you on life without cable TV. It’s been absolutely fantastic. We’re more productive, happier, and more active without the constant draw of TV.

We still watch a handful for television shows, but they’re all available online the next day at the network’s website. This means we’re more purposeful about what we watch, and we don’t waste time flipping through channels searching for something to watch.

We’ve been so happy without TV that we dragged our feet about setting up the digital converter box for broadcast TV that Kacie at Sense to Save sent me (thanks, Kacie!). We’ve had it for a few weeks, but never got around to picking up an antenna and hooking it all up.

But this weekend my in-laws will be here for the holiday, and my father-in-law is a football fanatic. We wanted to make sure we had network channels set up so he could watch football on Thanksgiving day.

We picked up a standard antenna for about $12. And I have to tell you, I am impressed. From what I remember about antenna-based TV, it was always fuzzy with bad sound or poor picture quality. But this picture is clear as a bell. I doubt we’ll watch much live TV (we prefer to watch it on our own schedule), but for certain live broadcasts like the Oscars and guilty pleasures like American Idol (don’t judge!), I’m happy to have network TV back.

Right now is a better time than ever to ditch your cable. If you’ve never lived without it, just give it a test run. Unplug the TV for a week and see how you feel at the end of it. If you’re feeling healthier, happier, and better, it might be time to give life without cable a shot. And you can still get the news and network broadcasting with a great pictures practically for free.

Photo by swirlspice

Unexpected benefits of life without cable

TV unpluggedDon’t you love when you make a life change for one reason, and realize that it benefits you in countless other ways? That’s kind of how we feel about canceling our cable. We made the decision to shut it off to save money. We were paying $70 a month for a service that we barely ever used. But after two weeks without cable, we’ve discovered a long list of other ways it’s improved our lives.

We have more time.

Now that we’re not wasting time watching junk on TV, we have more time to pursue other hobbies like blogging, reading, and listening to music. We still watch our favorite shows online at Hulu or on network websites, but we’re more purposeful about what we watch now. Plus we don’t spend countless hours zoned out while channel surfing and looking for something good when there’s really nothing on.

We’re more active.

I used to spend the evening parked on the couch on nights when Tony was in class late. Last week, when Tony was on campus and I was bored at home in the evening, I headed to the gym for my second workout of the day. On the weekends, we’re more likely to get up and get out of the house instead of zoning out in front of the Food Network.

Our house is filled with music again.

We used to keep the TV on in the background all the time, but only now that it’s gone have I realized how distracting and annoying it could be. Now when we’re writing or spending a quiet evening together, we play our favorite music in the background. It’s much more relaxing.

We’re branching out and watching new things.

It’s ironic, but only now that we’ve stopped channel surfing and feeling obligated to watch our expensive cable have we started getting into new TV shows. We rent TV shows on DVD from Netflix that we’ve always wanted to watch, like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Lost.” Our Netflix plan is only $8.99 a month for unlimited DVDs (only one at a time), but this is plenty to discover new shows and movies that we never had time to watch before.

Life without cable isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve been considering it, I say give it a shot! We still get to watch our favorite shows online for free, so canceling cable has been nothing but positive! Plus, we’re putting that $70 to better use!

Photo by puffsdaddy