Standby for Set-Top Boxes

November 01, 2001
November/December 2001
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2001 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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        Set-top boxes have the highest standby power consumption found in home appliances. Thanks to the upcoming change to digital TV formats,many consumers will be forced to either purchase or rent set-top boxes.
        Consumer Reports (CR) recently (September 2001) tested a wide range of set-top boxes for satellite systems. For the first time,CR also listed the standby power consumption of the units. We supplemented the data with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory measurements of cable boxes and the proposed specifications for Energy Star boxes (see Table 1). Energy Star calls for significant reductions,but not for a few years,when the level will fall to 7 watts for all devices.
        The standby levels range from 10W–40W, but many are above 30W. The highest consumers are units equipped with digital videodisk recorders—often called “TiVo”—designed to record pre–selected program material. These units don’t even have off switches because they are expected to operate continuously, always searching for and downloading material. Cable units are somewhat lower, though all TiVo-like units typically draw from 20W–40W.
        Total standby power use in American homes currently is around 60W. This figure includes standby power for televisions,VCRs, microwave ovens, chargers for mobile phones, clock radios, Dust Busters, and other electric devices.However, the widespread introduction of set-top boxes could easily increase standby consumption by 50%.

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