Set-top Boxes

The Product: 

Set-top boxes, otherwise known as cable, satellite or DVR boxes, are devices that receive video and other signals, process and store them, and deliver them to televisions for watching. Set-top boxes have become more sophisticated and energy consumptive over time and have evolved into different types including digital video recorder (DVR), non-DVR (a conventional box), thin client, or digital TV adapter (DTA). Unlike most other electronic devices designed for use in homes, most set-top boxes are bought and owned by pay-TV service providers such as cable, satellite, or telephone companies as part of their service agreement with consumers.

The Potential Standard:

There are currently no national energy efficiency standards for set-top boxes. In June 2011, DOE published a proposed determination of coverage signaling their intent to begin a rulemaking. However, in December 2013, DOE, pay-TV industry, and energy efficiency groups announced a voluntary set-top box energy conservation agreement. Following this announcement, DOE withdrew both the proposed rulemaking for a set-top box test procedure and the proposed coverage determination for set-top boxes.

The voluntary agreement covers all types of set-top boxes from pay-TV providers including cable, satellite, and telephone companies. The agreement requires the pay-TV industry to publicly report model-specific set-top box energy use and requires an annual, independent audit of service providers to ensure that set-top boxes in the field are performing at the efficiency levels specified in the agreement. The independent auditor found that "In 2018, 97.7% of service providers’ set-top box purchases met the Tier 2 voluntary agreement levels and all service providers met the 90% commitment individually." They also found that 78.1 of the service providers met the more rigorous Tier 3 levels, two years ahead of the 2020 Tier 3 effective date. Consumers have saved over $7 billion in energy costs and avoided 28.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions over the five years of the voluntary agreement so far. (2018 annual report)

Key Facts: 

Over 82 million households, subscribe to some form of pay TV. Most homes have more than one set-top box. However, the audit notes that signatories to the agreement purchased only 23 million set-top boxes in 2018, down from 46 million in 2014. 


Federal Date States

Timeline reflects state standards from 2001 to present; federal standards from inception to present.