When an especially high electricity bill arrives in the mail, it's enough to just adjust the dials on the thermostat and the refrigerator, right? Maybe not.
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“Small network devices suck roughly the same amount of energy around the clock, whether or not you are sending or receiving any data,” said Noah Horowitz, a NRDC senior scientist, in a statement. “But there are steps that manufacturers can—and should—take to make sure these devices are no longer energy vampires.”
Two existing industry standards can help increase the energy efficiency for modems and routers: IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) for Ethernet ports, and IEEE 802.11e, which governs automatic power save delivery (APSD).
The standards allow the devices to enter a low-power sleep state when no data is being moved around the network but then quickly wake them up and send data if necessary—quickly enough that consumers shouldn't notice the difference. Without such as sleep mode, a modem's annual energy use is similar to that of a 32-inch flat screen TV.
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Ecova and NRDC found that networking devices that were labeled as energy efficient did draw the least power. In nearly all cases, it is more efficient to use a gateway that combines modem and routing functionality rather than to have separate devices.
A small but growing piece of the energy consumption from home networking is Optical Network Terminals (ONTs), which are usually attached to the outside of the home to translate optical signals into electronic signals for customers with high-speed fiber optic service. There are about six million ONTs compared to about 40 million modems in the United States.
The difference in efficiency across all the devices tested was related to variation in capability (such as a device that can send 1 gigabit per second, compared to 100 megabit per second).