A set-top box helps decode images and audio that comes from terrestrial digital signals, satellite signals, coaxial cables or the Internet so that they can be displayed on a television.

Old televisions with cathode ray tubes only had analogue decoders. As the transition from analogue to digital occurred, at different times in different EU countries, a set-top box had to be purchased as a retrofit to keep old analogue televisions in use. These are the set-top boxes that are subject to EU ecodesign rules.

Digital televisions that are now on the market generally include both a terrestrial and a satellite decoder, which means that a set-top box is no longer necessary.

When a television signal is delivered with ‘conditional access’ by specific providers, requiring a registration and a fee payment, a specific decoding product is necessary, called a ’complex’ set-top box.

Ecodesign requirements

Ecodesign rules for simple set-top boxes are mandatory for all manufacturers and suppliers wishing to sell their products in the EU.

Voluntary agreement

Complex set-top boxes are covered by a voluntary agreement. A voluntary agreement is proposed by industry sectors and works as alternative to EU ecodesign regulations. Through this self-regulation, industries may achieve ecodesign objectives more quickly or at a lesser expense compared to mandatory requirements. The signatories to the agreement control its implementation.

The European Commission monitors and assesses the agreement as they need to fulfil some criteria of the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC).

Together with industry partners, the Commission has made guidelines for self-regulation measures under the ecodesign directive.

Standby and off mode

A wide range of electric devices can have standby and off modes.

These are required to switch into a low power mode (such as standby) after a reasonable amount of time and they must not consume more than 0.5 Watts in standby or in off mode.

Energy savings

Under the EU ecodesign requirements, a simple set-top box must not use more than 5 watts (W) of electrical energy in normal operation and 0.5 W in stand-by mode. This measure saved about 9 TWh of energy by 2014, avoiding the emission of 4 million tons CO2 and saving European households about €1.4 billion on their energy bills.

A voluntary industry agreement on complex set-top boxes commits signatories to reduce electricity consumption by 6.5 TWh by 2016, saving €884 million and 2.6 Mt of CO2 emissions. 

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