One of the unseen costs of running a modern Home Broadband connection stems from its impact on your electricity bill, not least the price of keeping your Internet router or modem device switched-on around the clock. We take a closer look at the costs of running such hardware.
Before we get started it’s important to note that the vast majority of us continue to make use of broadband connections that are based off older style copper broadband lines (e.g. ADSL2+) or a hybrid of fibre optic and copper (e.g. FTTC / VDSL), which often make use of a technology called Dynamic Line Management (DLM) and its associated services.
One of the problems with some of these services is that they can respond negatively to repeated disconnections / router reboots (depends how the ISP implements DLM), which could make your line slower and as such it’s best to keep them connected 24/7. In other words, you’ll probably get away with saving power by switching them off at night, but don’t do it too often.
But how much does the router itself cost to run and what other factors may influence this? We attempted to find out.
The cost of electricity differs depending upon how much your utility supplier charges for each unit consumed and the router’s own usage. The power consumed by your router will also vary based upon what features you have activated on the device (e.g. firewalls, WiFi etc.), the performance of its chipset, how many devices are connected at once and what you’re doing with the connection itself.
It’s worth pointing out that routers are designed to maintain and manage the connection 24/7, which means that even in an IDLE state (i.e. no other devices actively using the network) the router will often still be keeping its WiFi open for new connections and retaining a live broadband link to your ISP.
As such the difference in electricity consumption between a router at IDLE and under heavy LOAD is perhaps not as big as you might think, especially with modern broadband services being inherently low power technologies, but experiences do vary.
Next up we need to understand the nightmare of electricity costs and for that we have to step into the world of Kilowatt Hours (kWh), which is what most electricity suppliers use to explain your usage. A single kWh represents the electricity consumption of 1,000 Watts for a period of 1 hour and a typical household might consume between 2,500 and 5,000 kWh per year.
In practical terms you might pay around 12 to 20 pence per 1 kWh consumed (daytime) and some setups may also apply a much cheaper night-time rate. But we’ll leave that aside for now as it will cause too much confusion, plus there are big variations between homes and suppliers. For arguments sake we’ll use a roughly middling rate of 15.5p (pence) per 1kWh for our testing.
As an example, using our 15.5p per 1kWh choice, it would cost 15.5p to run a 1,000 Watt vacuum cleaner constantly for 1 hour (assuming it’s always gobbling 1,000 Watts of course) or 7.75p for 30 minutes. Easy enough. Separately, if your whole house consumed a total of 2500 kWh per year then that would cost you £387.50 at our chosen average rate.
On top of this you might have to pay the supplier’s standing charge, which is a small monthly or daily fee (e.g. around 10-19 pence per day) that is applied no matter how much electricity you use or don’t use. We’ve chosen not to include this charge below because it’s not directly connected to the amount of energy consumed by a router.
Let’s kick things off with a practical example by looking at the bog standard Sky Hub SR101 (ADSL2+ router), which Sky Broadband originally supplied until it was replaced by the VDSL2 “fibre broadband” (FTTC) equipped SR102 and most recently the much more advanced Sky Q Hub.
This is a good place to start because Sky’s old kit is about as basic as you can get, not least since it only has 100Mbps LAN (Ethernet) support for wired networks, no USB ports and basic 802.11n spec WiFi via the 2.4GHz band. So the SR101 should be about rock bottom for power usage (i.e. it’s completely rubbish, but at least you won’t notice it on your electricity bill).
We don’t have the official power specifications for the SR101, but our own independent measurements reported that it consistently gobbled around 4 Watts. Even under load it never quite made it much past 4.5 Watts, except during a brief boot-up spike. In other words the SR101 would cost you around 1.49p to run for 24 hours or only £5.43+ for an entire year. Hardly a problem.
Now let’s conduct a more detailed test..