Electricity consumption of Internet set-top boxes

electricity consumption, internet set-top boxe, energy efficiency, energy savings, standby modeDid you know that on top of your Internet subscription, the set-top box provided by your Internet service provider generates extra costs you wouldn’t think of, especially in terms of electricity consumption? Today, as Internet set-top boxes are becoming mainstream in most French households (10.5 million households in 2006, 23 million in 2012), the electricity use of such appliances is still little known; therefore, most set-top boxes are turned on 24/7. How much electricity does your broadband access use? Which improvements can be envisioned in terms of electricity efficiency?

Electricity use depends on set-top box

Internet set-top boxes vary according to the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and so does their electricity use. The most efficient ones use 143 to 173 kWh each year, that is to say a total of 16 to 19 € on your electricity bill. The most energy-consuming ones can use up to 263 kWh, which represents an estimated annual cost of 29 €, i.e. the equivalent of an extra month of Internet subscription! By comparison, a 200 litre, class A+ refrigerator (among the most energy efficient) permanently turned on uses a yearly 212 kWh.

Turning it off: the first form of energy saving to consider

Switching off your Internet set-top box when you’re not using it could save you 8 to 20 hours of operation every day), that is, on average, 50% of the device’s annual electricity use. This 10 € saving on your electricity bill may sound like nothing, but it makes a difference if you also switch off other appliances you usually leave on continuously (TV set, DVD player, games console…). This simple step could save you around 100 € every year.

Currently, the standby mode of an Internet set-top box does not really improve its energy efficiency, as it only cuts electricity use by 25% to 30% compared to the normal mode. However, efficient standby modes do exist on other home appliances, such as TV sets, whose power goes under 1 Watt once put on standby. A 94-cm plasma screen, for instance, uses 5.6 kWh per year when on standby mode.

Customizable saving mode: a failed experiment

In 2011, an ISP provided a set-top box that included an “eco-friendly” system with new options, such as a customizable saving mode: this way, the user could choose to de-activate the phone landline, set the throughput rate of the Ethernet and FTTH ports (10, 100, 1,000 Mb/s), or turn the LEDs down or off. However, the website Degroupnews tested this appliance and showed that the savings were minimal.

Different electrical circuit to cut energy use

Today, the most promising solution towards more efficient Internet set-top boxes consists in designing microprocessors with smaller feature size. For instance, a set-top box could be 35% more efficient by using an electric circuit avoiding sharp curves or conductive tracks too close to one another. Until this kind of technology becomes mainstream or set-top boxes come with a satisfactory standby mode, switching off your appliance when you don’t need it remains the single most efficient way of saving energy.

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