Issue Paper
June 11, 2013

In 88 million homes across the United States, digital content flows through high-speed modems and routers, streaming our videos, pinging email into our inboxes -- and consuming 8.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. All of that energy comes with a $1 billion price tag as household small networks guzzle power around the clock, even when our gadgets hibernate and we sleep. The toll to the planet comes in at 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equal to the annual tailpipe emissions of 1.1 million vehicles.

NRDC and its consultant Ecova recently partnered to determine the energy use of residential small network equipment and how much can be saved with more efficient designs. To evaluate the power use of America's small networks, we tested 60 models from a wide range of manufacturers, in homes and in the laboratory.

We found that the most efficient models use one-third less energy than average models and that replacing today's wasteful equipment with more efficient models could annually save 2.8 billion-kilowatt hours of electricity (about $330 million in customer energy bills).

Fortunately, there are more efficient options on the horizon. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency's EnergyStar program is finalizing its specifications for small network equipment, and soon the EnergyStar label will help customers choose efficient models and Internet providers that offer energy-saving network equipment in their subscription packages.