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Looks like the box on top of your TV is a worse energy waster than your refrigerator, or even your air conditioner. That’s the surprising w0rd from a Natural Resources Defense Council report (PDF) covered by the New York Times on Sunday, which recorded a surprisingly high power draw for the 160 million or so cable TV boxes and digital video recorders now plugged in at American homes. Why are these boxes so much more power-hungry than their larger appliance cousins? Because they’re turned on 24 hours a day, cranking away with their digital components, even when they’re not needed. Sounds like a problem that the set-top box makers should be tackling — but manufacturers are reluctant to add standby and sleep modes to their devices, in fear that the time they take to get up and running will frustrate customers. Regulations in Europe give set-top box makers incentive to build in these energy-saving features, but in the U.S., the EPA’s Energy Star rankings for set-top boxes don’t mention standby energy efficiency. Perhaps home energy management platforms that attempt to choke off appliance vampire power use via smart power strips or wall plug adapters could take up some of the slack?