U.S. EPA Reopens Future TV Set-top Box Program Spec Version 4.0
April 25, 2012 - For years, energy efficiency agencies around the world have been trying to fine-tune a set-top box (STB) program specification that dramatically reduces their energy consumption, especially when consumers have turned them off.
Last year, the EPA revised their ENERGY STAR STB Specification, establishing versions 3.0 and 4.0 (with effective dates of September 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013, respectively). At that time, the plan was to review version 4.0 before its effective date to ensure that the requirements aligned with evolutionary market changes and performance of STBs. They began that process a couple of weeks ago with an STB stakeholder webinar.
Version 4 broke new ground in reducing STB energy waste because it encouraged service providers to allow certain STBs to enter a "deep sleep" mode. In deep sleep, the power consumption has to be ≤ 15% of the power consumed while the box is in On-Mode. While the thought of any electronic product in 2012 using that much energy in sleep (or standby) mode sounds strange, STBs are notorious energy wasters – last week I picked up a new HD STB from my cable TV service provider and measured the same power consumption when the box was turned off as when I was viewing programs!
Most of the recent stakeholder webinar discussion focused on these issues:
- Test Method: Currently, ENERGY STAR uses a test method they developed that supports calculating a product's Typical Energy Consumption (the time and consumption of the STB in on, auto power down, and sleep modes) along with "power adder" allowances for boxes with increased functionality (i.e. High Definition, streaming, recording (see Table 1 below). But recently, both the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that they are developing their own test methods to measure STB energy consumption. While both will be based on the ENERGY STAR test method, any differences could lead to confusion with both manufacturers and service providers. The DOE has just begun its process, but when finalized in 2013 (it becomes effective in 2018), it will be the sole method for recording STB energy use efficiency in the U.S. and ENERGY STAR is sure to follow it.
- Multi-room Configurations: To reduce a home's total STB power usage, ENERGY STAR promotes using a centralized, feature-rich multi-room STB in combination with lower power consuming thin-client devices; several manufacturers are now marketing multi-room STBs. However, there's concern that the multi-room allowance may be insufficient for products to qualify as additional functionality is transferred from a thin client to the centralized multi-room box.
Table 1. STB Typical Energy Consumption Limits (ver.3 and 4) - base unit with additional functional adders
|Internet Protocol (IP)||50||25|
|Advanced Video Processing||12||8|
|Digital Video Recorder (DVR)||45||36|
|High Definition (HD)||25||16|
|Home Network Interface||10||8|
|Multi-stream – Cable/Satellite||16||8|
|Multi-stream – Terrestrial/IP||8||6|
|Removable Media Player||8||8|
|Removable Media Player/Recorder||10||10|
The proposed draft will be published in May with a final spec published in August in order to maintain the July 2013 effective date. For a copy of the recent webinar presentation and the currently proposed version 4.0, go to: