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The UK Electricity Costs of Home Broadband ISP Routers Compared

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 (1:03 am) - Score 17,882
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The SuperHub 3 itself supports 802.11ac WiFi (2.4GHz at up to 300Mbps and 5GHz at up to 1300Mbps), 4 x Gigabit Ethernet ports, 2 x Telephone ports (these seem to be disabled) and we should also mention that it uses a 1.2GHz Intel Atom CPU (odd choice for a router).

This is also the only DOCSIS 3.0 cable router we’ve looked at and that, combined with the CPU choice, means power consumption may be a bit higher than others (note: cable broadband connections tend to go a lot faster than VDSL2 and usually need a little more power).

Power Consumption (Manufacturer Figures)

Minimum / IDLE = 12 Watts

Maximum / LOAD = 15.3 Watts

The results suggest that the SuperHub 3 will cost between £16.28 (IDLE) and £20.77 (LOAD) per year to run, which would make this the most expensive router of our study. Sadly this is one of the routers that we couldn’t test directly and that’s a frustration because we would have liked to know how power usage is impacted by switching the router into modem-only mode (perhaps one of our readers might be able to answer that?).

* Sky Broadband (Sky Q Hub)

At present Sky’s latest router is normally only supplied to their “fibre broadband” subscribers (note: it also supports ADSL) and annoyingly it also offers just 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports, although on the flip side it does support Powerline (AV1.1) networking but this only works with other Sky Q Kit. Elsewhere its 802.11ac WiFi claims to offer a good top speed of up to 1600Mbps via 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Otherwise the spec sheet is quite sparse, although in benchmarks we’ve seen that the Sky Q Hub often comes close to BT’s new SmartHub router and that’s a top-of-the-line piece of kit, at least in terms of bundled ISP hardware.

Power Consumption (Our Figures)

Minimum / IDLE = 8.5 Watts

Maximum / LOAD = 11 Watts

The official documentation claims that the Sky Q Hub’s “Network Standby” mode uses “less than 12W of power” within 20 minutes of no use, although our own real-world testing figures, displayed above, found that it only used around 8.5 Watts when IDLE and kept to 11 Watts under LOAD.

The results suggest that the Sky Q Hub will cost between £11.53 (IDLE) and £14.93 (LOAD) per year to run, which puts it somewhere between the arguably superior BT SmartHub and Virgin Media’s power hungry SuperHub 3. Take note that you can save some power by enabling its Ethernet Energy Efficiency mode, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference and is only applicable for wired connections.

* Plusnet (Hub Zero)

Zero by name, zero by nature. This router is best described as a bog standard piece of kit, which is based off the Sagemcom 2704N and similar to Sky’s SR101 in terms of core features (i.e. it only supports ADSL2+ broadband, 802.11n WiFi @ 2.4GHz and 4 x 100Mbps Ethernet ports).

Plusnet didn’t initially provide any official IDLE and LOAD figures for the Zero, but they did state that it will use an “average” of around 3.4-3.8 Watts. The technical manual for the original unbranded router separately suggests that it’s unlikely to gobble more than 7 Watts at absolute maximum. Since then Plusnet has provided us with the following figures.

Power Consumption (ISP Figures)

Minimum / IDLE = 4 Watts

Maximum / LOAD = 7 Watts

Luckily we did know somebody on Plusnet and were able to identify that the routers IDLE power consumption is just a shade above 3 Watts, but sadly we were unable to test it under multi-device LOAD. Never the less the results appear to be roughly in keeping with the SR101 that was tested earlier and so a LOAD of around 5 Watts seems more plausible than Plusnet’s 7 Watts, but we assume the manufacture was able to push it further than we could.

In other words, the Hub Zero should cost you between around £4.09 (3 Watts IDLE) and £9.49 (7 Watts LOAD) per year to run, which given our measured IDLE consumption would make it one of the cheapest router’s to run.

* Plusnet (Hub One)

The Hub One is essentially a re-branded and slightly cut-down version of BT’s HomeHub 5A router and as such it’s best to assume that the power consumption figures are likely to be almost identical to BT’s kit, as examined earlier. However Plusnet did provide is with

Power Consumption (ISP Figures)

Minimum / IDLE = 7.16 Watts

Maximum / LOAD = 9.69 Watts

We note that Plusnet’s figures are higher than what we recorded for the HomeHub 5, but then we saw the same with their Hub Zero data. This could of course be down to all sorts of things, such as slight differences in testing or the sensitivity of our basic testing equipment. On top of that Plusnet’s doesn’t use identical firmware.

Using Plusnet’s figures we’d estimate that the Hub One should cost you between around £9.71 (IDLE) and £13.14 (LOAD) per year to run.

Conclusion

None of the above devices are likely to burn a hole in your pocket (electricity bill), at least not to an extent that is any greater than occasionally charging your Smartphone or leaving a single energy-saving light switched-on 24/7. A lot of modern LED light bulbs only use around 4-8 Watts, which is similar to many of the routers we examined.

Generally almost all of the routers being bundled by major ISPs are likely to cost no more than around £15 per year to run and that’s assuming you a) leave them switched-on 24/7 as intended and, b) make simultaneous use of multiple connected devices (computers, smartphones etc.). In reality the impact upon your pocket will probably be less, partly depending upon your energy tariff.

The one exception was Virgin Media’s SuperHub 3 which, if the official figures are to be believed, appears to be quite a power hungry beast and may set you back an extra +£5 per year over the others. Now that’s hardly worth worrying about, but it’s still a consideration for the unemployed and those on much lower incomes.

Furthermore Internet providers will often bundle cheaper and lower spec hardware with their broadband packages. By comparison you could buy a superior third-party router, although in our experience most of these will still keep their usage below the level of Virgin’s SuperHub 3 under LOAD.

Going forwards the future generation of G.fast and DOCSIS 3.1 equipped wireless broadband routers, which are also likely to support new standards like 802.11ax WiFi and 801.22ad WiGig, will be more demanding and so we may revisit the issue of power consumption again in a few years’ time.

Otherwise we’d take the above figures (both ours and those from the ISPs / manufacturers’) with a pinch of salt as power consumption is difficult to measure and there’s plenty of margin for error with all of the potential variations involved, but these ball park figures should at least give you a rough indication of the cost.

In an ideal world the router manufactures’ would all be making their power consumption levels clear, instead of merely posting the PSU’s maximum rating.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. eM

    I happen to have both a BT Hub 4 and VM Hub 2 (and a couple of EE Bright boxes, too – you’ve not covered them at all) and I would have no issues lending them for your tests. Should’ve asked 😉

    • Noted 🙂 . However the objective wasn’t so much to do a full comparison of all the kit (past and present) available from each of the major ISPs, but rather to give users a better idea of power usage vs cost by using a cross section of the latest kit (with some older routers where possible) from most of the biggest providers.

  2. John Miles

    Sky Q Hub, Minor correction – I’ve got one running on an ADSL2 line (its not limited to VDSL)

  3. Stephen Donaghy

    Any chance of getting the results in a nice, easy to compare table?

  4. Evan Crissall

    So the maximum saving in electricity, by moving from a top-of-the-range Router, to a budget pile of obsolete crap is £15.34 a year. Almost enough to buy yourself twenty B&H and a pint of Guinness. Once a year.

    Or better yet, cancel your broadband subscription altogether. And save yourself HUNDREDS over the year.

    In practice, not worth doing anything about it.

    Mark must have watched too much Dickens over the festive season. Mutating into Ebenezer Jackson-Scrooge.

    • Web Dude

      I’d say it was a worthwhile comparison, for those who have parents complaining about poor broadband speeds, but insisting on turning everything (including the router) off, every night.

  5. One of those necessary costs in the modern era. Running broadband services 24/7 is an essential part of life these days but I would say only for those internet savvy users who may rely on this uptime. The average user, in my opinion, can use xdsl on demand so sticking a plug timer on the router would work out in their favour. The box autosyncs with the providers equipment so the whole process is automated and for those watching the pennies, this would be a money saving exercise. Buy hey, we are talking pennies per year so is it worth it?

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