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Electronics trade group opposes proposed energy tests for cable boxes and DVRs

Tougher efficiency standards could save Americans millions of dollars each year

Published: April 2013

Your cable or satellite box and DVR are spending your money even while it’s sleeping. In 2011, Americans spent $3 billion powering these set-top boxes, with two-thirds of that energy being sucked up in sleep mode, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In an effort to increase the energy efficiency of set-top boxes and in turn reduce your utility bills, the Department of Energy recently proposed energy standard test procedures for such set-top boxes.

The Consumer Electronics Association, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and other industry groups are trying to power down the initiative even though the Energy Department’s proposed standards are nearly identical to the voluntary test methods set by industry groups last December. The difference, of course, is that government standards would be mandatory. The Energy Department is likely to propose minimum energy standards for set-top boxes this fall.

In addition, stricter Energy Star 4.1 program standards nearing completion would deliver 20 percent more efficiency than the current 3.0 standard and the current CEA guidelines. “The industry’s proposed voluntary commitment falls significantly short of what's achievable through Energy Star 4.1 and essentially sticks to the status quo,” says Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy and environment policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports,

We believe that you should have access to the most efficient electronics devices and household appliances available. What makes set-top box efficiency even more important is that you often don’t have the choice of shopping around for the most energy-friendly option, since most set-top boxes are issued by service providers. You should be able to get a box that's energy efficient at a reasonable cost. (Our reviews of LCD, LED, and plasma TVs include the estimated annual electricity cost for each model.)

You shouldn’t have to watch your set-top boxes waste your money. To learn more ways to lower your utility bills, take our Energy IQ quiz.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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