Cable TV Industry Launches Energy Efficiency Initiative

Those cable boxes that sit on top of (or under) your TV are about to get a lot more energy efficient.

Cable TV operators that provide service to 85% of US  customers have pledged to make 90% of all new cable boxes  Energy Star 3.0 by the end of 2013.

One of the big improvements will be that like computers, cable boxes will go to "sleep" when not in use, greatly reducing energy consumption. Currently, they consume as much power when the TV is turned off as when it’s on.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) challenged the industry to develop more energy efficient devices.

Many people aren’t aware that the innocent cable box is an energy hog. Two cable boxes consume more electricity than a new refrigerator – the appliance that uses the most energy in your home – roughly 500 kilwatt hours a year.  

Energy Star-rated cable boxes use less than half the energy of standard ones.

The change is part of a U.S. cable industry energy efficiency initiative, launched by its trade association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. 

A key element of the initiative is the "CableLabs® – Energy Lab," a R&D facility that will concentrate exclusively on improving energy efficiency.

It will promote development, testing, and deployment of technologies that enable cable subscribers to reduce and manage energy consumption at home, including establishing new requirements for cable video devices and network support systems. 

  • Design and maintain a consistent, accurate energy tracking program for measuring and reporting energy consumption and efficiency improvements of new set-top boxes. Procedures for testing and advancing the energy efficiency of set-top boxes and energy conserving software will also be established.
  • Serve as a testing and development facility for designers of energy efficient software and hardware.
  • Create energy efficiency specifications for semiconductor and hardware suppliers and the network operations systems that support cable devices.
  • Assist in developing applications and products that will help customers manage their overall residential energy consumption.
  • Showcase and demonstrate current and future energy savings products and power monitoring capabilities.

CableLabs is expected to be fully functional by the first quarter of 2012. 

As of early 2011, 95% of Comcast and 100% of Time Warner cable boxes – the two largest operators – are Energy Star. In cable markets that have converted to all digital systems, operators provide customers with small digital transport adapters (DTAs) that use less than four Watts.

Many new services won’t require a cable box at all: digital-only tuners; home networking and whole-home DVR; network- and cloud-based delivery that allows the processing and storage power of the network to be shared across many consumers; and video services delivered via Internet Protocol (IP) directly to tablets and gaming stations.

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Comments on “Cable TV Industry Launches Energy Efficiency Initiative”

  1. Noah Horowitz

    One of the main catalysts for the cable industry’s recent annoucement was the findings of a recent study done by NRDC which can be downloaded at:

    The key finding was that these devices consume near full power levels even when turned “off”.

    Your story erroneously states: Like computers, cable boxes will go to “sleep” when not in use, greatly reducing energy consumption.

    This is simply not true. These devices do not currently have a low power sleep state and thats why they consume so much energy each year.

    We need the cable and satellite industry to incorporate some of the smarts that are already in use in the Ipad and our smart phones which use a trickle of power when not in use and boot back up instantly when the user returns.

  2. Rona Fried

    Thanks for pointing us to the NRDC study, Noah. Although I was trying to make the point in the article that one of the improvements will be that cable boxes will go to sleep, your comment shows me it wasn’t clear that they don’t currently go to sleep, so I clarified it in the article. I’m glad to know you’re a knowledgeable NRDC member, I support them too.


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