Friday, 2 January 2015

Sleep regulations for network equipment won’t make much difference.

As of yesterday, new routers, modems, WiFi hubs and other networking equipment must conform to EU energy efficiency requirements (COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 801/2013). These regulations are like the standby regulation we already have – but networking equipment was previously exempt because they can’t go to sleep properly, they have to watch for network traffic and wake up immediately, so this is more of a light doze. This is reflected in the requirements. The maximum power for normal standby is 1W but for a network device the limit is 12 W for now, reducing to 8W from 1 Jan 2017 [1] [2].

This isn’t going to make much difference, at least not yet. A US study in 2013 by NRDC of 60 devices including modems, routers, switches and WiFi access points found only two that took more than 12 W. They were both optical network terminals – for fibre to the premises, not just fibre to the cabinet as most of us have. Even the 2017 limit will not hit hard: there were two out of 7 routers and 4 out of 14 integrated modem/routers (like a BT Home Hub) taking more than 8 W [3].

In the US, the Energy Star efficiency standard now covers network equipment. (The EU has Energy Star too for computers, printers and displays but it doesn't seem to have doesn't picked up this bit yet.) Certification is based on average energy consumption. A fairly basic ADSL router with WiFi would be allowed 6.5 W (5.5W base, 0.3W for ethernet and 0.7W for WiFi). Add VDSL, a Gb ethernet port and dual band WiFi and the limit is still only 9.2W [4].

By the way 12 W will cost you about £15/year at 14p/kWh. If you think this is too much, consider turning them off overnight.

[1] Guide to ecodesign requirement for networked products and household
coffee machines
(Danish Energy Agency)


[3]Small Network Equipment Energy Consumption in U.S. Homes (National Resources Defence Council)

[4] Energy Star. 2013. Energy Star Program Requirements for Small Network Equipment – Test Method. US: Energy Star.

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