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In March we reported that the new voluntary energy conservation agreement (VA) among multichannel video providers, device manufacturers and energy advocacy groups would soon be working to deliver energy savings for 90 million American homes. The VA included commitments to efficiency standards that would improve set-top box efficiency by up to 45 percent and rack up more than $1 billion in consumer energy savings annually.
So imagine our surprise when in spite of this agreement (which was embraced by the US Department of Energy and received strong bipartisan praise), we saw a report in the LA Times on Monday with a headline proclaiming cable TV boxes had become the second biggest energy users in many homes. Even more unfortunate is that we’ve seen this erroneous story picked up by others who are not even trying to check the facts.
The energy efficiency advocates NRDC, ASAP, ACEE and NCTA, CEA and CCTA have already submitted a joint letter to the LA Times correcting what we see as a deeply unfair portrayal of advances made under the Set-Top Box Energy Conservation Agreement. CEA has also published a blog post discussing the energy efficiency of set-top boxes. You can see that letter here and CEA’s blog post here*. Whether or not the LA Times chooses to address our letter, it’s important to correct what we see as an incredibly misleading report.
As a baseline, an average TV set top box consumes less than 12-kilowatt hours (KwH) of energy per month. Based on the average American household energy consumption of 903 KwH per month, a TV set top box is responsible for just 1.3 percent of a typical household’s energy use. Compare that to 46 percent for heating and cooling.
The LA Times article suggested that cable boxes that were rated for 500 watts were “about the same as a washing machine” and could cost “$8 a month for a typical Southern California customer.” First, a 500-watt rating on the back of a set top box has nothing to do with power consumption and is most likely a UL safety rating. Second, an average set-top box consumes less than $2 per month of power. Even a DVR set top box without the latest energy efficiencies running at 30 watts of power when on, costs about $3 per month in Southern California.
The article says experts report the VA “will provide only a fraction of the potential gains and take years to realize.” Again, wrong. While traditional US Department of Energy approaches would have taken eight years, the voluntary approach immediately offered significant energy savings. After only one year of operation, companies are already ahead of schedule, with 85 percent of new set-top box purchases already meeting Energy Star 3 efficiency standards, and many models offering even greater savings.
Throughout the article, readers are misled, left with a false picture of both the power consumption of these devices and the current efforts to achieve greater efficiencies. As part of the significant transparency and monitoring requirements of the VA, service providers are making the energy usage of new set-top boxes available for consumers to review. We encourage you to see for yourself how the VA is both reducing energy consumption and saving consumers money.