Tackling plug load energy use

Jeffrey Swofford is a research analyst at Ecova.

Jeffrey Swofford is a research analyst at Ecova. 

Plug load energy use is getting more and more attention in the energy efficiency community. If you haven’t already, I encourage you take a peek at my first blog post "The vampire of energy efficiency, why plug loads matter." It will get you caught up on what plug load devices are and why they are important for energy efficiency conversations.

Every other summer, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy hosts an important research conference in Pacific Grove, Calif. Scientists, policymakers, electric utility experts and efficiency advocates meet to discuss the latest trends and research in the energy efficiency community. It’s a glorified geek-fest — and we love it. At this year’s ACEEE Summer Study, a number of my colleagues presented findings from five research papers. In this blog, I’m going to focus on one of those papers that addresses set-top boxes.

In my last blog, I told you that set-top boxes were some of the biggest energy vampires out there. Set-top boxes allow consumers to access video content on their TVs or other displays. You have one in your home if you subscribe to pay-TV.

What makes a lot of today's set-top boxes inefficient is that they draw the same amount of power regardless of whether or not the device is being actively used to watch or record television. In 2011, we worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council to conduct a field study that measured the energy use of 64 set-top boxes throughout the U.S.

Since NRDC’s study, my colleagues and I have conducted more research on estimating the savings potential and policy opportunities to better manage the energy use of set-top boxes. Findings from our ACEEE paper published this summer indicate that there are roughly 240 million pay-TV set-top boxes in the U.S.the equivalent energy output of an alarming 11 coal power plants is required in the U.S. to power today’s pay-TV set-top boxes.

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