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 nearly $5.1 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)
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.