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Power EU Television Hardware Technology

Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey (theguardian.com) 205

Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."
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Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey

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  • the VW syndrome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @05:05AM (#54666893)
    Very Widespread
    • Will be interesting to see what happens here - Samsung being Korean, the EU might have a harder time laying down the law than with VW.

    • Re:the VW syndrome (Score:4, Insightful)

      by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @07:52AM (#54667437) Journal
      I bought an LG TV and it was in some kind of power saving mode when I first plugged it in. It looked awful so I turned it off....
      • by clodney ( 778910 )

        I have an LG TV, and I have gotten pretty prominent notifications that changing setting X will significantly affect power consumption. So I have no idea if LG is gaming the system, but they seem pretty upfront about what affects energy use, and make it pretty apparent to the operator.

        • Either way though it's an easy way to get a certain test rating, thought not particularly duplicitous. I only watch a few hours a week so it doesn't matter to me anyway :-)
  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @05:09AM (#54666915)

    People game standardized tests. Graphics cards, benchmarks, cars, students, teachers, if you have a standardized test, people will put in the effort to game the numbers.

    Maybe they should do what they do for TV : recruit a random sample of people, stick an energy monitor on their appliances, and see what happens.

    • And increase the cost of getting the testing done, and therefore increase the cost of the product. Our washing machine started giving us issues, and since we reuse the gray water coming out of it (watering plants, but mostly for flushing the toilet) so we had a pretty good idea of how much water it used. So with the machine giving us issues we were in the market for a new washing machine. Shopped around and bought an expensive Bosch washing machine with awesome ratings for energy and water usage. Turns
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @06:38AM (#54667105) Journal
        Increasing the cost of bringing an appliance to market might not be too bad a thing. Have you tried to read reviews for white goods recently? The manufacturers churn models so quickly that by the time one has been reviewed it's no longer being produced and so you have to just hope that the next model has similar characteristics. Giving manufacturers an incentive to keep them on the market for a bit longer would be beneficial to consumers.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The only solution is strong consumer laws. In the UK products must last a "reasonable length of time", which in practice means if things like white goods that you would expect to last you a decade fail after three years you can get at least half your money back. The exact amount can ultimately be determined by a court, but generally if it lasts half as long as you would reasonably expect you get half your money back or a warranty repair.

          This creates a great incentive for shops to sell good brands that last,

          • That's two different things you and the GP are talking about. The GP is talking about life on the shelf. You're talking about life in your home. The latter hasn't been a complaint in this story so far.

            Actually the aspects of both of your comments are intertwined, you can actually repair appliances for quite a long time after they cease manufacturing because many of the changes that come out in the new model are purely cosmetic.

        • One of the main problems is features based on models rather than features as an optional addon or software upgrade. I mean DLC sucks in games, but producing 2 different TVs with two different model numbers based on some software features, or the inclusion of a SCART port instead of something else, just doesn't make sense. I think you'll find the number of "different" model of any whitegood on the market is actually quite small with only cosmetic / minor tweak changes underneath that none the less get a comp

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )

        And increase the cost of getting the testing done, and therefore increase the cost of the product.

        --

        Shopped around and bought an expensive Bosch washing machine with awesome ratings for energy and water usage. Turns out it uses MORE water than the old standard one.

        So you spent more on the one that is apparently gaming standardized tests...? I'll just point out that the work to game the test isn't free, either.

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @06:08AM (#54667019)
      See: Goodhart's Law [typepad.com], "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure".
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @06:10AM (#54667027) Homepage
      In this case it was obvious a long time before the VW thing that the power consumption figures were understated, although the specific usage of defeat devices of the kinds being described is new. Anyone who has deployed some of those power monitors that sit between an appliance and the socket to see how much power a given device is drawing over time will be well aware that peak, average and idle power draws for a given device are typically above those stated, and often by a considerable margin. The only real question here is why it took so long for those that were doing the regulatory tests to realise that something was amiss and dig a little deeper - more average Joes complaining after deploying smart meters in efforts to go green, perhaps?
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      After the shitstorm VW got, it should've been obvious to other companies that this sort of BS really doesn't pay in the long run. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

    • While designing my solar system, I spent a few months logging data with my kill-a-watt [wikipedia.org]. Not only did I learn how much energy things used, I learned how to vary loads to maximize daytime energy use, greatly reducing the amount of storage (batteries) I needed for night.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just dishonest companies. The difference between the EU and the US, the EU has rules against this.You want to game the system in Europe? Sure, go ahead. It's a self-certification. You can game it all you want, you probably will get products through, no problem. But wait until you get caught because someone reported you and questioned your documentation, then your top level employees can't even get into Europe because they'll all have an arrest warrant for them. Then you can kiss all your prospects in the EU

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @05:34AM (#54666949) Journal

    Next they're going to tell us that automakers somehow game the emissions tests. Yeah, like THAT'S possible.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @05:54AM (#54666999)

    My boss slaps a folded-over InfoWorld magazine onto my desk, thick enough to kill a rat with in those days. He says with obvious glee, "How bout dem apples?" It is Steve Gibson's INFOWORLD column of March 8 [google.com] and Gibson (with obvious glee) has caught a manufacturer of Hercules graphics cards red-handed. The standard WinBench program had conducted a series of tests --- and in one particular test of text display, in which the phrase "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back then sat on a tack" is continuously painted on the screen --- the card performed oddly spectacularly. It was that one score that when combined with the others, ranked the card above the competition. Suspicious, Gibson changed a single letter in the test phrase and the card's score dropped to a reasonable range. The card was apparently recognizing that a test was in progress and 'cheating' by failing to actually over-write this static text repeatedly.

    I love the comment by the manufacturer when Gibson contacted them (read it!) but what intrigued the industry the most was that the cheat was not to be found in the Windows driver code, it had been embedded into the firmware of the accelerator chip. In the next Winbench version the test phrase jumped around the lazy screen's back during the test, rendering the cheat obsolete.

    Has anyone done an energy study to estimate how much energy is consumed by EU "market surveillance authorities" and even the EU apparatus itself? Perhaps if we recognize the EU as a special case and stub the whole thing out with a rubber stamp, people will be able to watch HD television and toast four slices of bread at once and with former EU personnel in the workplace everyone will be able to work one less day a week with same pay.

    • The article is indeed worth a read. I couldn't imagine a maker of hardware saying today "Yeah, I wrote that cheating routine myself, that way we come out on top every time a comparison is run, pretty clever, eh?"

      They may THINK that, but I doubt they'd have the chutzpah to just throw that in your face.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It wasn't so clear cut back then. People wanted to play Quake with the best possible frame rate, so the driver would detect quake.exe and apply some application specific optimizations. That was happening well into the 2000s at least, and was advertised as a feature by AMD and Nvidia.

        All that has really changed now is that instead of the driver doing the tweaks, the game developers build them into their code. Somehow it's not cheating if the developer tweaks the pixel shaders when the game detects an Nvidia

        • by Calydor ( 739835 )

          The Nvidia driver actually DOES that same thing you describe. Check the patch notes for the GeForce drivers, they quite specifically talk about optimizing for a bunch of specific games every time.

        • This is pretty much what graphics drivers do today, too. To optimize for a game when they detect it as the foreground application. And I highly doubt that anyone considers this a bad or even illegal practice. That's also pretty much what I WANT the driver to do, to get out of the hardware that I have the maximum for the game I play.

          The complaint here is that this was done to artificial tests that had zero benefit for actual, real-life, applications but was used to mislead people into thinking it had.

    • toast four slices of bread at once

      *sigh* These Euro-Myths never die, do they? No matter how often they are debunked, they just keep coming back.

      Here is the source of the claim, it's literally one sentence on page 56: http://www.ecodesign-wp3.eu/si... [ecodesign-wp3.eu]

      A bunch of liars, sorry "journalists", claimed that this meant the EU was going to ban two slot toasters. Such a plan never existed.

      Later a new variation on the claim referred to 4 slot toasters because the EU was considering minimum efficiency standards for heating and cold storage kitchen appliances. Of course, there was never a ban - you can make a 40 slot toaster if you want, it just has to use reasonably efficient heating elements and mechanical design.

      watch HD television

      We have had HD television broadcast over the air for more than a decade in Europe, and you can't buy new SD televisions any more.

      • *sigh* These Euro-Myths never die, do they?

        A bit further up was a post complaining about bendy cucumbers being banned. Disregarding the fact that cucumbers are normally straight, people can't even get the myths right anymore.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          That's a new one to me. Food seems to be a favourite topic of these myths.

        • Disregarding the fact that cucumbers are normally straight, people can't even get the myths right anymore.

          Surely you mean "can't even get the myths straight anymore".

        • There are, in fact, bendy cucumbers and usually they aren't sold in the markets because they make packaging difficult and are less desirable by the consumers, but it is not like they are forbidden, some markets specifically sell these so less cucumbers are "wasted".

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Later a new variation on the claim referred to 4 slot toasters because the EU was considering minimum efficiency standards for heating and cold storage kitchen appliances. Of course, there was never a ban - you can make a 40 slot toaster if you want, it just has to use reasonably efficient heating elements and mechanical design.

        The problem in Europe is not the toasters, but the toasting products. Because sliced bread is now made very tall, toasters have become taller to accommodate it. However other toasted products like (English) muffins or crumpets remain the same size or slightly smaller than they used to be. This means getting my crumpet out of a toaster involves angling it and using the cancel button to eject my crumpet at speed whilst calculating the parabolic arc to ensure that it lands on the plate on the breakfast bar and

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          There is usually a rack on the top for crumpets and the like. Your aren't supposed to put them in the slots. I'm not an expert though, and I didn't RTFM.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @06:14AM (#54667039)

    If you have standardized tests, people will do what's necessary to perform well on those standardized tests and ignore anything else. What happened when schools got them? Every teacher began teaching to the test, i.e. what will be asked at this test, everything else was simply swept under the rug. Why? Because it won't be tested, so it's superfluous. Actually harmful, because it will take up valuable time and brain capacity for no gain.

    No gain at the test, that is.

    Same here. Your test will perform X, so we'll do good at X. And on nothing else.

    There's also that problem that customers want cheap TVs that have great features, and that is pretty much the exact opposite of power conservation. You cannot build cheap TVs that have all sorts of features, great resolution, high contrast, fast switching and so on, and don't consume much power.

    Now take a wild guess which of the three things "cheap", "performance" and "compliance" gets thrown out the window? Hint: You can't fire cheap, because that's what both the maker and the customer wants. You can't cut performance, because the user would eventually notice and a huge stink ensues on various test sites on the internet. And compliance is something that gets tested once and nobody really gives a fuck about it.

    So pick the one that you could do without.

    • If you have a test X, we will do good at X.
      If you don't have a test X, then we don't know if you will do good at anything.

      The only people that gripe about tests are the ones that haven't learned anything and don't want to get caught.
      • Testing is necessary, but don't test subset A and tell everyone up front that you'll test subset A. Same as in school, what did you learn when your teacher told you that you're going to get tested about the stuff on pages 80-110? You learned the stuff on pages 80-110. If it was on page 79 or 111, it didn't even cross your mind to learn any of that. Because it would literally be useless knowledge.

        Should you have learned it? Yes, of course. Because pages 60-80 explained just what 80-110 required you to know t

        • "You learned the stuff on pages 80-111"

          Yes, at least you learned it. The problem with not testing is you don't know if they learned pages 80-111, or learned anything at all.

          "We have to make sure that tests cover the whole spectrum of what's required"

          So you want testing, or you don't want testing? People complain about Common Core testing all the time in schools and "teaching to the test". But they never offer any alternatives other than "make sure everyone learns everything"
          • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
            The issue is the nature of the questions. While there's absolutely a place for multi-choice, or questions that only have one correct written answer, the only way to test on whether a student has truly comprehended something is to get them to explain it, or better still extrapolate from it, in the test. The problem with that approach is that it introduces more ambiguity into the scoring and actually requires that the person (and it currently has to be a person) marking the test knows something about the su
            • I see. So you don't mind testing, but dislike multiple choice questions? Not all Common Core tests are multiple choice. There is essay writing for example. But yeah, keep moving the goalposts. There is nothing wrong with standardized tests. They aren't the end all be all, but there needs to be measurement - even if it has flaws.
              • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
                No, I said there is absolutely a place for multiple choice, and was talking about testing in general rather than SATs specifically - which I didn't mention at all. The trick is to find the right balance between establishing that the student *knows* the subject, for which multiple choice tests are fine, and that they *understand* the subject, for which free form text/essays/dissertations or verbal discussion is usually much better. The problem is that the costs and skills required for marking the assessme
              • The way I see it, standardization of testing is both necessary and self-defeating. Ideally, we want to ensure that people become useful adults with some ability to contribute to society. We believe that having a well rounded education promotes this goal. We want to make sure we are getting value from the resources we expend into this effort.

                In order to ensure we are getting value, we need some way to measure the results of education. The measurement has to be applied equally across the board, or else thing

    • The test is not realistic. Or rather, the specs that the test is written to does not reflect how people really want to use their TVs.

      In addition to helping people buy computers, I also help people buy TVs. A lot of them complain that the TV doesn't seem as bright as it seemed at the store, and will "randomly" suddenly turn very dark or off. That's my cue to visit their home, go through the TV's settings menu, and shut off all the power-saving features like the auto-dim timer and dynamic brightness.
      • A
    • Your test will perform X, so we'll do good at X. And on nothing else.

      So you just need to make your test comprehensive. If the car emissions test had involved fitting measurement devices to real consumer's cars at random, the cheating would have failed.

      The EU vacuum cleaner tests are a good example. They test on multiple surfaces with a very good approximation of house dust, so the cleaning ability, energy consumption and emissions are all measured accurately. The main criticism is that they only measure with empty dust bags/bins, but the next version of the test is going to fix that.

      You cannot build cheap TVs that have all sorts of features, great resolution, high contrast, fast switching and so on, and don't consume much power.

      History demonstrates that to be untrue. TVs have been steadily getting more and more efficient over the years. CRTs became LCDs, CCFL backlights became LED, the image processing chip lithography got smaller and more power efficient, even as the amount of work increased. Standby power decreased by orders of magnitude too, and there were even savings from including set top box functionality into smart TVs. Most of them use ARM processors, which have got much more efficient mainly thanks to phones and tablets.

      All the while the image quality has been getting better too. Contrast improved a lot when the change from CCFL to LED was made, for example.

      The purpose of these regulations is to make sure manufacturers don't do what happened with vacuum cleaners. Bigger, more powerful motors because consumers equate big motors with better cleaning. In fact most of them just produced more heat, while cleaning much worse than Japanese models that used 1/4th the power, because in Japan consumers were prioritizing good cleaning and low power consumption. So now the EU puts a star rating on vacuum cleaners to show how well they clean, while limiting the motor size so that the manufacturers actually have to innovate instead of just applying more and more suction until it rips your carpet up.

      This is why we have brush bars now. Available for decades in Japan, but not in the EU because consumers only cared about MOAR WATTS.

  • by OneoFamillion ( 968420 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @06:53AM (#54667155)
    ...who really uses the "green" program on washing machines or dishwashers? If the artifact mostly soaks in lukewarm water for 4 hours and comes out still dirty and with remains of detergent, it has to be washed again. No energy was saved. One can always set goals, but even bureaucrats cannot bend the rules of physics just by creating arbitrary standards.
    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      ...who really uses the "green" program on washing machines or dishwashers? If the artifact mostly soaks in lukewarm water for 4 hours and comes out still dirty and with remains of detergent, it has to be washed again. No energy was saved. One can always set goals, but even bureaucrats cannot bend the rules of physics just by creating arbitrary standards.

      I have to say that varies from appliance to appliance. In my dishwasher the eco wash is fine if you don't have cooking pots with baked on food. In my washing machine it's like you say, though if the clothes weren't too dirty you can get away with adding another rinse and spin rather than repeating the whole process.

    • i'd kill for a toilet that you don't have to flush twice
      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        Don't eat so much tex-mex.
      • Get a Toto. Even their 1-gallon super-eco model is an outperformer, although the slightly-larger models have more flushing power.

        Toilets are engineered with complex fluid dynamics to get flow and pressure just right, and to make the flush swirl properly. This means a 3-gallon tank might flush just about anything, but a 1-gallon tank in a well-designed bowl can flush what a 1.5-gallon tank in a naive design can't. Even if the 3-gallon tank does flush, the flow and swirl characteristics will determine ho

        • In my experience, round-bowl toilets work much better and take up less room than the elongated bowl toilets. I have never understood the appeal of the elongated bowls.

            20 years ago when low-flow toilets were new, Toto was leaps and bound better than anything else. The difference in performance is not so great anymore, but Toto is still relatively expensive.

          There are no $50 Kohler toilets at Home Depot.

          • Elongated bowls don't bang male-parts when you scoot forward a bit. They're seen as a luxury option for this purpose, but only by men, and not necessarily by all men. It's also easier to pee standing up.

            Good point on the round toilet fluid dynamics.

            The limits of our fluid dynamics technology (and fluid dynamics in general--there's only so much energy in a gallon of water that's not elevated 6 feet above the bowl) remain close to 20 years ago; the general understanding of and ability to manufacture to

          • I have never understood the appeal of the elongated bowls.

            You must be a female. Women typically don't understand the appeal of elongated bowls.

    • Oddly enough, taking a power meter to things like window ACs has typically shown me they eat less than the advertised wattage. I don't get a read on performance, though.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The lukewarm 4 hour soak is also known as the "delicates mode", i.e. the one you use if you don't care about how long it takes but do want your clothes to last and not bobble up all the time.

      This is why the EU gets involved. Consumers don't understand the issues, they just think that more = better. More power, more speed, bigger, louder, brighter is always better, right? And consumer magazines fail to dispel that myth because proper testing is hard and lazy journalists love playing Top Trumps with stats.

    • My LG washing machine is rated as very efficient. I suppose it is, unless I actually want a shirt that does not stink. Then I have to select 'prewash', 'extra water', 'extra rinse' and 'heavy soil'. I also have to give it an extra shot of HE detergent and a good dose of Clorox 2. And the cycle takes 2 hours to run. At least I do not have to wait on the dryer.

      Dishwashers these days are even worse than washing machines, but I blame a lot of that on the no-phosphate detergents. The no-phosphate detergents fai

    • At one time, there were real gains made in home appliance efficiency, but regulators and politicians continued to push efficiency past what physics allows to kiss the asses of the environuts who failed high school physics, so you are left with a reasonably efficient appliance now made mostly useless by "green" regulations that violate the laws of physics and/or chemistry (like removing the phosphates from dishwasher soap http://www.npr.org/2010/12/15/... [npr.org] )...

    • but even bureaucrats cannot bend the rules of physics

      They don't need to. By setting standards engineers focus on areas that they didn't in the past. You can heap crap on the bureaucrats all you want but the modern appliance is far more energy / water efficient than it was in the past precisely because of this focus. The fact that your eco button doesn't work as well is an isolated case, kind of like how I don't need to full flush a toilet after a brief piss.

      Who uses the eco button? I do. It depends highly on what it is I am washing, but after party where near

    • The eco program on my dishwasher focuses on conserving water, not electricity - it heats the water as needed. I've never had dishes not come out clean on mine running in eco mode and it's eight years old now.

  • This is no different than a certain car maker's vehicles knowing when they were being tested and responding accordingly or how a certain graphics card manufacturer built drivers that would know when they were being benchmarked and adjust the behavior of the card.

    LK

  • This is not news. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They do, it has been long known by anyone over 30, oh millennial. They also continue to use power if they are turned off but plugged in, physically unplugging unused appliances will noticably reduce an electricity bill. It's one reason rechargeables are not a panacea, one must still charge them. Again, this is common knowledge to anyone born before 1978. I think we were actually in better shape in terms of understanding these things 30 years ago, the seeming magic of 21st century tech makes people think it

    • 1970: Turn on a typical state of the art "solid-state" color TV. Sound output almost instantly, semi-watchable video 1-2 seconds later, and stabilized video with reasonably proper colors within 2-10 seconds (depending upon how long the TV had been "off" prior to turning it on).

      1985: Turn on a typical mid-priced color TV. Sound output before you had time to lift your finger from the power button on the remote, watchable video within a second, stable video & proper colors within a second or two. We don't

  • There is at least one very good reason to recognize test conditions: predictability of test results.

    As a company, you perform in-house testing to understand the characteristics of a device prior to sending it out for official review. You don't want any surprises. The test conditions are public, and known (as they should be). So, rather than rely on the competence of the official testers (or lack thereof), you make your device recognize the test conditions, and put it into a standard configuration. That

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