Sense: DVRs Cost US Consumers Approximately $1.84 Billion Annually

Sense’s analysis of DVRs from cable and telco providers in the US shows that they consume nearly as much energy while idle as when the TV is on and their energy saving modes are not effective. For instance, Comcast’s XFinity X1 DVR uses 26 watts when active and 24.5 watts in “energy saving” mode. With more than 84 million US households using STBs from communications providers, consumers are spending an extra $1.84 billion on their annual utility bills collectively due to the inefficient design of DVRs.

The report says that energy consumed by cable DVRs across the country added up to approximately 21 TWh in 2016, translating into 21 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Sense estimates that implementing a true power saving mode with some small changes in cable DVRs could save more than 14 TWh annually and cut US residential energy consumption by 1%, equivalent to eliminating almost five coal-fired power plants running around the clock. And, if the cable industry adopted energy saving techniques developed for mobile phones, at least a ten-times savings would be possible, saving US consumers almost $3 billion annually. Sense CEO Mike Phillips remarked:

“Con1 Mikesumers are being misled by Comcast’s claim that they provide an energy saving mode. Only 1-2 watts has negligible impact on both consumers’ utility bills and the environment”.

The other top pay TV providers — Verizon, DirecTV and Time Warner — take a similar approach to their set-top box energy usage. Cable DVRs typically consume 20-27 watts while in use or idle. By comparison, the PlayStation 4 uses only 8.5 watts in energy saving mode. The iPhone consumes less than 1 watt while on and only 0.05 watts in sleep mode. It would cost less than $2 to implement a power saving mode that could cut energy consumption for each DVR by two-thirds. The pay TV industry could eliminate 14 TWh in energy consumption across its 84.7 million US households by implementing a true power saving mode, avoiding 14 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

If cable providers took a page from mobile phone designers’ playbooks and architected their systems with energy usage in mind, power consumption could be reduced by 90%. This change could reduce overall US residential energy consumption by 1.3%, saving $2.5 billion annually. This is an example of the steps that manufacturers can take to get to the 24-26% CO2 reduction goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.

In a 2015 report, the Natural Resources Defense Council analysed home idle load and recommended that device manufacturers design their devices to use less than 0.5 watts in low-power mode. They also recommended that devices automatically switch to low-power mode after extended periods of user inactivity, when appropriate. Pay TV providers have reached neither goal in their design of DVRs.

In 2012, the Set-top Box Voluntary Agreement set goals for increased energy efficiency in STBs. The industry has reported annually on energy savings, but the goals can be updated to reflect greater efficiencies that are possible with mobile hardware components.

Phillips also commented:

“Consumers have little control over their choice of cable DVR and most people assume that turning off the TV will lower their energy costs. Meanwhile, cable DVRs are always on, using far more energy than necessary. To add insult to injury, cable providers have been crowing about their energy efficiencies, which lag the rest of the high tech industry by a huge margin. The cable industry needs to step up and implement mobile-tested hardware to significantly lower the energy costs of their DVRs”.

Analyst Comment

We reported last week on savings made by power-saving STBs. (BR) (Report: US STB Energy Efficiency Agreement Saves $3.5 Billion)