On Making Set-Tops Use Less Power


Energy Star activities,
and the push to make
all in-home CPE (tech
talk for “consumer-premises
equipment”) more
mindful and efficient
about power draw.

The latest version
(3.0) of the voluntary
Energy Star requirements,
proposed by the Environmental
Protection Agency with a deadline of
September 2011, asked for set-tops
to use less power (a 15% reduction,
or 3 watts, whichever is greater) while
in “on” mode, and for a “deep sleep”
mode to kick in, as with computers.

Note: While this is all happening
in labs and engine rooms, it’s tricky.
Why? Three reasons. One: Set-tops
live for a long time. Building in power
efficiency is a going-forward thing, for
the most part, like every other feature
you wish you could cram into set-tops.

Remember the one about “nonresponders?”
(More here: http://bit.ly/AbaXWP) Boxes that get wired
into the electrical outlet tied to the
light switch. Turn out the light, turn
off the box. Sounds great from a
power draw perspective, right? But
those powered-off boxes instantly
become “non-responders” to the
network serving them — bricks, essentially,
until powered back on.

Then there’s the matter of operations.
When do updates get shipped
out to set-tops? In the middle of the
night, of course, to minimize service
disruptions. And when they wake up?
If you’ve ever unplugged your DVR,
you know about the wait that ensues
while guide data gets reloaded.

These are the issues your engineering
pals are facing, as they
figure out ways to make set-tops
better energy partners. They will get
it done. Wish them luck regardless.

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