Pay TV set-top boxes, often one of the biggest energy hogs in most homes because they never power down, may become more efficient and save American consumers money under an industry agreement announced Thursday.
By January 2014, more than 90 per cent of these boxes will meet the U.S. government's Energy Star 3.0 requirements, according to the voluntary five-year accord by 15 device manufacturers as well as cable, satellite and phone providers. Because Energy Star boxes use at least 30 per cent less power, the companies expect annual savings of $1.5 billion.
"This is significant," says Doug Johnson of the Consumer Electronics Association, which co-announced the initiative with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. He says the new set-top boxes will not only reduce energy costs for consumers but also reduce service calls for providers, because they won't heat up as much and will thus last longer.
The boxes, which are losing popularity as more people watch TV online or via video game consoles, are costly to operate. The reason's simple: unlike cellphones, they don't power down when not in use. Hitting the off button dims the clock or display but rarely reduces power use, and unplugging a personal video recorder, or PVR, slashes energy use but won't record TV shows.
They cost $3 billion in 2010 to operate, two-thirds of which was wasted because they were connected but weren't being used, according to a 2011 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
Noah Horowitz, NRDC senior scientist, calls the announcement "a far cry from what is needed to significantly decrease the $2 billion worth of electricity these devices waste each year."
-- USA Today