When building owners and managers need to reduce energy consumption, the focus is typically on HVAC and lighting. While technology is constantly evolving for these major energy consumers, the rest of the building should not be overlooked. Ongoing energy management requires review and evaluation of all types of energy-saving opportunities. Managing plug loads can be one way to reduce your energy consumption.
Plug load is an important component affecting energy consumption for two reasons: the demand for plug loads is increasing and the amount of wasted energy associated with plug loads is significant. According to a DOE report, plug loads currently account for 33% of the electricity consumption in the U.S. Additionally, the U.S. DOE estimates that by 2030, commercial building energy consumption will increase by 24%, while the energy used for plug and process loads (PPL) is expected to increase 49%. PPLs are energy loads not related to lighting, space heating and cooling, ventilation, and water heating.
Given the significant cost of energy, all end uses of energy need to be examined. The first step is to ensure that the installed equipment is as efficient as possible. Most people are familiar with ENERGY STAR® equipment and how the label signifies that a piece of equipment is more energy-efficient than similar models. Next, eliminate energy wasted through standby power, also known as vampire or phantom power. This refers to the energy consumed by electronic equipment when it is not performing its main function. Microwaves, phone chargers, printers, monitors, and other equipment draw power, even when not powered on.
ENERGY STAR equipment has requirements around minimizing standby power, but a certified device does not mean that standby power is eliminated. Incorporating controls into outlet receptacles allows a building manager to better control and eliminate standby power. Through timers, occupancy sensors, and other control technologies, the standby power associated with equipment can be eliminated.
Building codes are beginning to address plug loads. ASHRAE 90.1 2010 requires that at least 50% of all receptacles, including those in modular partitions installed in private offices, open offices, and computer classrooms, must be controlled by an automatic control device that functions on a scheduled basis, an occupancy sensor, or a signal from another control system. As more local governments adopt the latest editions of ASHRAE and more stringent building codes, the construction and renovation marketplace will need to be prepared with strategies to address plug load controls.
There are significant savings associated with curbing electrical loads. A DOE lab found that when implementing PPL reduction strategies in a 222,000 square-foot office facility, they were able to reduce the energy consumed by plug and process loads by 43%, saving $58,000 annually in energy costs.
There is a growing movement around energy transparency and awareness in the United States. Eight major U.S. cities now require buildings of a certain size to disclose their energy consumption annually. Currently, five cities have adopted the Architecture 2030 challenge, which encourages architects to design new buildings to be carbon neutral and reduce emissions of existing buildings by 50% before 2030. If plug load increases are not addressed, building owners will have to disclose higher-than-average energy consumption and risk failing to meet their goals.
For more information, contact Angela Grondz, WESCO’s Global Account Leader for AZA Smart Source. Angela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.