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How to watch more and use less

Do you know the most efficient way to binge-watch your favourite show?

Before you start your marathon, choose the right streaming device.

Time for a marathon? A TV series marathon, that is. Sometimes that’s what it takes. It’ll get you through that buzzworthy new series before your coworkers share spoilers on Monday. Or through the re-watch of your favourite show before the new season starts on Thursday. Lucky for you, we’ve figured out exactly how long it’ll take you to watch some of your favourite shows.

If you hunker down for 3 hours a night, every night, until you’re through, it’ll take you 21 days to watch all of Game of Thrones, and 40 days to watch Friends. If you’re hoping to laugh your way through all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, you’re looking at three and a half months.

Just for fun, we’ve compiled a list of how long it’d take to binge-watch a list of popular TV series at the bottom of this story. But first, let’s talk energy efficiency.

Choose your weapon: PS4? Apple TV? Smart TV?

Generally speaking, electronics manufacturers have done a nice job of increasing efficiency in their products. But did you know there’s a huge difference between the most- and least-efficient ways to stream video?

The award for most efficient streaming of a television show goes to a Smart TV that carries the ENERGY STAR® label and allows you to stream directly from the likes of Netflix via built-in access or an easy-to-download app. If your TV isn’t smart, you’ll need to link it up to a streaming device – and that’s where the big gulf in energy use occurs.

If you're streaming via Apple TV, watching every season of Breaking Bad will cost you – based on BC Hydro’s rates – a paltry 2.5 cents in energy costs. Stream through your PS4, on the other hand, and it’ll cost you 3 times more.

OK, you did the math, and even with the PS4, that’s only about 7.5 cents. But you’re not just streaming one show, and that game console is just one of many devices in the home that use power, so bit by bit, that energy use adds up. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority found that in 2018, more than half of B.C. households had five or more Internet-connected devices in the home, and one study found that 6% of households were using 15 or more devices.

So while streaming every season of your favourite show may seem like a drop in the bucket, keep in mind all the devices that are using electricity simultaneously.

Average streaming costs for five hours a day per year:

  • Smart TV: $7.97

  • Roku + TV energy use: $8.40

  • Apple TV + TV: $8.75

  • XBox + TV: $21.97

  • PS4 + TV: $26.05

  • Microsoft Surface Pro laptop: $3.80

On the move? Tablets use very little energy

Some of us binge-watch during our daily commutes, either on a phone (or for better viewing) on a tablet. If you thought the energy use above was negligible, consider that streaming every season of Game of Thrones on an Apple iPad will cost you 1.3 cents. And smartphones use even less power.

The binge list: From Downton Abbey to The Simpsons, and everything in between

Here’s a sampling of a few popular TV shows, and how many days it would take to watch them at three-hours-a-night.

  • Downton Abbey: 19 days

  • The Wire: 20 days

  • Game of Thrones: 21 days

  • Breaking Bad: 21 days

  • Six Feet Under: 21 days

  • Homeland: 27 days

  • The Sopranos: 28 days

  • Seinfeld: 30 days

  • Friends: 40 days

  • Big Bang Theory: 45 days

  • Doctor Who: 46 days

  • The West Wing: 51 days

  • The X-Files: 73 days

  • The Simpsons: 109 days