Stories tagged phantom load

Jun
27
2011

Like a vampire R2D2, really.: That's assuming the original R2D2 was not a vampire itself.
Like a vampire R2D2, really.: That's assuming the original R2D2 was not a vampire itself.Courtesy mechanikat
You know, Buzzketeers, that I only say these things because I care about you. Not all of you, of course—there are a few that I could really take or leave, and you know who you are—but the vast majority of you.

And it’s not that I want to deprive you of your Cake Boss. I know you love your Cake Boss, you little cake eaters, you. Really, I don’t want to deprive you of anything. I want to protect you. From vampires.

Not regular vampires, of course. They’re out there, and there’s very little I can do to help you on that front. In fact, statistics pretty much guarantee that a small portion of you will be killed by vampires (if you aren’t actually turned into one), so it’s really not worth giving the subject too much thought.

But there’s another kind of vampire out there. It lives on Cake Boss and electricity. It’s your set-top digital video recorder. Or cable box, or whatever. So I guess it could live off of shows other than Cake Boss—Ace of Cakes, D.C. Cupcakes, or Last Cake Standing, potentially—but the issue is the same: these devices are huge power sinks.

This is a phenomenon known as “phantom load,” and it’s not unique to DVR devices. Lots of electronic appliances draw a small amount of power while you’re not using them. Not a ton of power but it adds up over the months. According to some anecdotal evidence that I don’t feel like tracking down a valid citation for (so don’t use it in a class assignment, eh?), national phantom load consumes the equivalent of a nuclear power station’s output. According to other folks, phantom load is really just the distracting tip of the iceberg when it comes to our systemic inefficiency in power production and consumption.

In any case, the NYT claims that some DVR devices use more energy than a refrigerator, which is nothing to sneeze at, I guess. They don’t really have to use so much energy, but the industry is not required to make them any more efficient. So they don’t. We could perhaps push for stronger government regulations, or we could try to force them to be more efficient by only purchasing energy-saving models, but the Cake Boss lobby has us by … a sensitive area.

Plus—and tell me if I’m wrong—it seems like most people don’t have much of a choice when it comes to cable boxes and DVRs; they just get what their cable/internet provider has for them. So is this an area where government regulation is worthwhile, if consumers aren’t aware of the problem or given much of an opportunity for choice? Or is this just a distraction from more important issues? (i.e., Cake Boss.)

PS—“Phantom Cakes” is now the name of the cake-based reality show I will be producing, and if any one of you tries to weasel a Phantom Cakes onto TV before I can, I will personally kidnap your pets.