This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 28, 2009

New Energy Star Labels Help to Avoid Energy-Wasting Set-Top Boxes

Many U.S. consumers may have left set-top cable boxes behind years ago, when they shifted to cable-ready televisions and home entertainment systems, but the more recent shift to digital television, high-definition television, and digital video recorders has brought the set-top box back—even if it's no longer possible to literally stack the box on top of the television. If you're among the many who have found that the box is back in your home, rest assured that the Energy Star program is working to make sure that the box operates in an energy-efficient manner. As of January 1, new cable, satellite, and telecommunications set-top boxes can carry the Energy Star label if they are at least 30% more energy efficient than conventional models. That's a difference that can really add up: if all set-top boxes sold in the United States met the new Energy Star specification, the savings in energy costs would grow to about $2 billion per year, while the avoided greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to removing 2.5 million vehicles from the road. Energy Star is a joint program of DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Cisco, Motorola, Pace plc, and DIRECTV are the first manufacturers to offer Energy Star-qualified set-top boxes. Of course, the EPA realizes that most U.S. consumers don't actually buy a set-top box; they typically rent the box as part of their service contract. For that reason, the agency is working directly with the cable, satellite, and telecommunications service providers to establish partnerships aimed at improving the energy efficiency of the providers' boxes. AT&T and DIRECTV are the first to sign up and have improved the energy efficiency of a significant number of their set-top boxes. New customers should request Energy Star-qualified set-top boxes when signing up for service, and existing customers should inquire about upgrades. See the EPA press release and the set-top box page on the Energy Star Web site.