The energy consumption of national set-top boxes has fallen by almost 40% since 2012, according to a report released today, which means consumers are spending $ 1.6 billion less per year powering the black boxes connected to their TVs. While the set-top boxes used to access pay TV from cable, satellite, and phone companies were quite inefficient in 2012, the industry has worked hard to upgrade the new ones they buy to fit into our homes.
As a result, consumers now have lower electricity bills and nationally we are avoiding the need to generate the equivalent of four large coal-fired power plants. This means cleaner air and 9 million metric tonnes less carbon emissions per year. And with the move to streaming and the growing availability of “apps,” many of the nearly 200 million set-top boxes installed in the United States will soon be phased out, saving even more money and avoiding pollution.
Why is the power consumption of set-top boxes decreasing?
Due to Voluntary agreement signed in 2013 and renewed in 2018 between major service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Charter Communications, NRDC and box manufacturers, the industry is committed to purchasing low power set-top boxes. The agreement sets limits on the amount of energy each type of box can consume annually. From the just published Annual Report published by the agreement steering committee, more than 95% of all new boxes purchased by service providers in 2018 met energy consumption requirements.
This graph shows how the savings from the Accord continue to increase as older, less efficient models are replaced by newer, more efficient models.
Some of the biggest power saving gains come from the DVR, that wonderful device that lets you record your favorite sporting event (like the games of my beloved Golden State Warriors) or a sitcom for future viewing. While the average DVR used 267 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh / year) in 2012, today’s DVRs consume less than 139 kWh / year, a savings of almost 50%. Additionally, the second and third TVs in the house often have a low power “thin client” that only uses around 50kWh / year, instead of another DVR or standard set-top box.
While the power consumption of national set-top boxes has dropped dramatically, we still pay over $ 2 billion in utility bills to run our set-top boxes. Much of this is due to a design flaw where the case continues to consume almost all power levels even if you’re not watching or recording a show.
Make additional savings
Fortunately, the industry is changing rapidly when it comes to the way they deliver content to our homes. The new method uses streaming and customers can receive all of their current channels and DVR features through an app on their internet-connected TVs. In many cases, a customer will be able to get rid of their set-top boxes, which can result in annual savings of over $ 50 on their energy bill if they had older, less efficient set-top boxes. Rather than storing shows on a hard drive inside your DVR, the content will be stored in the cloud and you can access it on your TV or, in many cases, also on your tablet or mobile phone. (Note, each home will continue to have a modem and router, or gateway to not only receive and distribute incoming video, but also to surf the web, send e-mail, etc.)
What you can do to make sure you save energy
Check with your service provider and see if you can flip your DVR and other set-top boxes and instead switch to a streaming-based plan that offers the same services. If you must keep your decoder, be sure to request a newer, more efficient model if you have an older model. (Click on here to see the annual power consumption of all recent models.) Either way, you’ll save money and help reduce the massive carbon footprint associated with pay TV.
Hopefully the industry continues to listen to this issue and redouble its efforts to avoid wasting energy, which will lead to even greater energy and pollution savings in the future. .