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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 20, 2012

'Light Sleep' Mode Provides Significant Power Savings for Set-Top Cable Boxes

By Nick Ruble, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Through extensive testing, CableLabs (News - Alert) has come up with a solution to cut power consumption for set-top boxes by over 20 percent. Beginning in September of 2012, the U.S.’s six largest cable providers will be offering this option, which has been dubbed “light sleep” mode, to 85 percent of the nation’s cable households.

Ralph Brown, chief technology officer of CableLabs announced, “Our CableLabs Energy Lab test measured further reductions of 20 percent or more by implementing light sleep…Applying EPA estimates for how long a typical set-top powers down and the average energy savings we measured, this indicates annual energy savings of about 35 kilowatt hours per set-top.”

It is projected that over 10 million set-top boxes will be in light sleep operation by the end of this year.

This 20 percent cut in energy consumption alone will save cable customers over $44 million per year in electricity costs, as well as expand on recent advances that have been made in the cable industry. Energy Star compliance, Low-power adapters, and cloud-based delivery (among many other improvements) all help in cutting back on power consumption, but the implementation of light sleep mode is by far the most significant of them all.

There are a number of reasons why set-top boxes hog so much energy, the most apparent being the simple fact that they are constantly running. Energy efficiency hasn’t always been too big of a concern for manufactures until just recently, which is surprising – considering that the box sitting on top of most household televisions is eating up 30 more kilowatt hours per year than an average refrigerator and over 170 more than a 42” LCD TV.

It seems like the most obvious solution would be to power the box down whenever it’s not in use, but the user would then have to wait for it to reconnect each time they wanted to watch some television. That can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. This is where light sleep mode comes into play. With light sleep mode, the box is using minimal energy without disconnecting from the cable provider, eliminating the hassle of waiting to pick up a connection.

Energy Star 3.0 devices cut power consumption by as much as 50 percent or more, and it is expected that 85 percent of all set-top boxes sold in the latter half of 2013 will comply with these standards. 

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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