Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Verizon FIOS and Energy Use

Something in the house began beeping recently, but only every ten minutes or so, making it very difficult to tell where it was coming from. I finally traced it to this box in the basement.
The box was telling me that the backup battery was probably dying and needed to be replaced. Why does my house have a battery in the basement?

If you switched to Verizon FIOS internet service at some point, you may have been surprised to find that your land line phone goes dead not long after your house loses power in storms. It has to do with the fiber optic line they strung from the street into your house. The old copper phone line carried its own electricity, separate from the electrical grid, to power your land line phone even during power outages. The fiber optic line doesn't. Instead, they put one of these boxes in the basement. It runs off your electrical power from the grid, but has a backup battery to keep the land line phone functioning for a few hours during power outages. If the power is out for days, you're out of luck.

I called Verizon, and they told me that I would have to pay for the backup battery if I'd had FIOS for more than a year, but that the system will still work without it. Fortunately, it turned out to simply be unplugged. How that happened is one of the basement's mysteries.

While I had the guy on the phone, I asked whether it's okay to unplug the Verizon set top box (for changing channels) when it's not in use. The installer had told me not to unplug it, because it's constantly being updated with new channel programming information. But the guy today recommended turning it off overnight. The electronics will last longer, and he said he was saving $30 a month by turning off computers and various entertainment electronics.

Using a kill-a-watt meter, I found that the set top box uses a constant 20 watts, while the router uses about 15. Add the box in the basement, which I think uses about 20 watts, and that's 55 watts the Verizon system is constantly using. Putting the set top box on a power strip and turning it off overnight, and the router too unless there's a nightowl using the internet, makes sense, particularly if it helps prolong the life of the electronics.

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