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“Measuring and Reducing Set Top Box Power Use”. International Stakeholder Workshop June 29, 2005 By Noah Horowitz Senior Scientist NRDC [email protected] Today’s Meeting. Go over energy and environmental impacts of set top box power use.

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“Measuring and Reducing Set Top Box Power Use”

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“Measuring and Reducing Set Top Box Power Use”

International Stakeholder Workshop

June 29, 2005

By Noah Horowitz

Senior Scientist


[email protected]

Today’s Meeting

  • Go over energy and environmental impacts of set top box power use.

  • Explore feasibility of reducing overall box energy use, especially during extended periods of set top box inactivity.

  • Share information on research and policy developments from around the world.

  • Discuss test methods, operating modes, and performance metrics.

  • Create process for ongoing communication and collaboration.

Who is NRDC?

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

  • Environmental advocacy group with more than 600,000 members.

  • Air/Energy program interested in reducing global warming pollution and protecting public health.

  • Long track record of collaboration with industry and policy makers on energy efficiency (monitors, soda machines, computers, lighting).

Energy Efficiency

“Deliver same level of performance

while using less energy”

  • Efficiency gains through improved designs, more efficient components, etc.

  • Reduce user’s operating costs. Extremely cost effective.


  • Policies should be performance based, not prescriptive. Encourage innovation.

Today’s Scope

  • Cable and satellite set top boxes

    • Analog and high definition (HD)

    • Multifunction including built-in digital video recorders (DVRs)

    • Focus on new boxes to be deployed, not retrofitting existing ones

  • For today, exclude:

    • DTAs – digital TV adapters (digital to analog)

    • Game Box Consoles (X-Box, etc.)

    • CableCARDs integrated in TVs

Why Set Tops?

  • More than 80% of U.S. homes have cable or satellite TV.

  • Many of these customers have 1 or more set top boxes.

  • Per box power use increasing because new boxes have added functionality (dual tuners, recording/storage capability, HD, etc.)

  • Number of new full featured boxes expected to grow dramatically.

  • Set tops consume ~ 1% of national residential electricity use and projected to increase by up to 75% by 2008.

Highlights of NRDC/Ecos Research

  • Set top boxes draw between 10 and 30+ Watts all day long.

  • Pressing “off” button has no significant impact on power use.

  • Most boxes do not have sleep mode. (always “fully on”)

  • Annual power consumption of new full featured HD boxes with DVRs approximately 200-300 kWh/yr.

  • Household set top box annual energy use (for homes with multiple boxes) approaching that of a new refrigerator.

Set Top Environmental Overview

  • Power plants largest source of CO2, mercury emissions

  • If no efficiency gains made in new set top box designs:

Set Top Box (STB) Primer

  • To date, service provider (eg Time Warner, Direct TV, etc.) buys the box and gives or leases the box to their customer.

  • Customer, not box purchaser, pays the electric bill (“split incentive”).

Unique Challenges

Service providers need to maintain continuous connectivity to the boxes in their system

  • Send updates – program guide, encryption codes (prevent theft)

  • Ability for two way communication (eg. pay per view

Low Power Mode Challenge

  • Box not being used by the consumer for most of the day. Typical use 4 to 6 hours/day.

  • Can box enter low power mode due to user action or after extended period of inactivity, but still “wake” in response to head end or user signal?

  • Good analogies – cell phones (uses a lot less power during standby, but always connected and ready to take a call; computer sleep mode).

More Low Power Mode Thoughts

  • Box should enter this mode when:

    • User pushes the STB power button to off or hits STB remote (unlikely)

    • After extended period of inactivity

    • After completing service provider induced update

    • After recording pre-scheduled show

  • TiVo type issues – hard drive spinning, and speculative recording

Efficiency Gains May Require

  • STB modifications

  • “Head-end” modifications

    - Wake and sleep protocols developed and used

  • Will likely need changes in both software and hardware. Proactive coordination between various stakeholders will be needed.

The Potential

If US adopted a similar approach to Australia, we could:

  • Avoid the need for 3 large (500 MW) power plants

  • Prevent 10 million tons/yr of CO2 emissions, a major global warming pollutant. This is equal to taking all the cars off the road from a city the size of Philadelphia for a year.

Lots of Worldwide Activity

  • EU working to create Code of Conduct.

  • Australians have established mandatory performance standards (MEPS)

  • China very interested in this topic. Current focus DTAs, more complex set tops next.

  • EPA ENERGY STAR – voluntary labeling program. Current spec suspended, planning to reissue in future.

  • Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Working Group created

Worldwide Harmonization

  • Recognize national markets around the world vary considerably as do local broadcasting requirements. One size fits all spec probably unrealistic.

  • To the extent possible worldwide harmonization desirable for modes, test methods, capabilities, etc.

  • Goal is to reduce burden on STB manufacturers and to achieve energy savings at lowest cost

Today’s Ground Rules

  • Today is not a negotiation or an attempt to set power levels.

  • Dialogue to focus on test methods, modes, and what is possible.

  • Aim for constructive discussion/strive for collaboration

  • Please participate. Lots of meeting dedicated to open discussion.

  • Avoid talking about specific pricing, trades secrets, etc.

Link to NRDC/Ecos Paper


  • Includes raw data on set top box field measurements

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