Energy efficiency advocates, set-top box (STB) manufacturers, service providers and the federal government have voluntarily agreed to improve energy efficiency of STBs, generally based on the Energy Star program’s product specifications, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports.
About 85 percent of US households have at least one STB that delivers subscription-based television service by cable, satellite or other telecommunication signals, according to 2013 data from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Consumer Electronics Association. In most cases, these STBs operate at almost full power even when they are in standby mode. Energy saving modes such as deep sleep are present on Energy Star models but may or may not be enabled.
No federal appliance standard currently exists for STBs. The federal rulemaking process requires years of extensive market analysis, which can prove cumbersome for electronics with quickly evolving features. The voluntary agreement among industry and efficiency advocates allows for greater flexibility and shorter development times than the federal rulemaking process, say the stakeholders.
The voluntary agreement was made effective January 1, 2014, and states that 90 percent of all new STBs purchased by service providers for delivery to customers should meet the current Energy Star specification, with a more stringent specification going into effect January 1, 2017.
Because this agreement does not require service providers to switch out existing STBs with more efficient alternatives—or discard less efficient devices—it may take years for the more efficient devices to make up a significant portion of the installed base. However, some existing STBs may be able to incorporate energy-saving features through firmware updates. The Energy Star program maintains a list of qualified products currently available, with information about each STB’s power-saving features and power draws in active and inactive modes.