Drawing Power: Plug Load Management

Plugged In: Trends in Plug Load Monitoring and Management

Automated Buildings, July 2016

Equipment plugged into wall outlets represents an ever larger share of energy consumption in buildings, so naturally building pros are looking there for energy savings. Plug loads now consume about 15% – 20% of electricity in offices, and as much as 40% – 60% in some buildings, reports the New Buildings Institute. A double whammy of trends is causing this. First, as building envelopes and HVAC systems become more energy efficient, plug loads naturally account for a larger piece of the pie. Second is the explosion in the number and types of office equipment.

Much of plug load consumption is necessary for business operations, while other draws are wasteful. Think of the difference between employees using desktop computers during their shifts to complete work versus leaving monitors on overnight when no one is around. Or, the employee with a contraband space heater tucked under his desk – not only drawing power but potentially creating a fire hazard.

With the advent of plug load monitoring and management tools, building pros have more powerful and sophisticated ways to reduce such phantom power draws. They no longer have to rely on company memos nagging employees to shut down equipment at the end of their shifts, or stickers exhorting them to “turn it off when not in use” plastered on everything. Instead, equipment can now be turned down or off remotely and automatically.

Reliable operations

While reducing electricity waste is a clear benefit of plug load monitoring and management, an equally beneficial function is ensuring crucial equipment stays on. So, while facility managers want to make sure an employee’s desk light isn’t left on all night, they also have an interest in ensuring that certain equipment stays on. An obvious example is that power is not cut to mission critical computer servers or to lab or hospital equipment. A less obvious example is that the vending machine in the employee break room remains on. While keeping the Klondike Bars in the office vending machine frozen is not a matter of life or death, losing power to such a machine can result in costly waste and a time consuming mess.

Plug load monitoring and management tools

Today’s plug load monitoring and management tools help building pros fulfill both of the above needs. Simple-to-install BACnet-enabled receptacles interface with building management systems (BMS) to help reduce plug load costs up to 40%, while ensuring mission critical and other equipment remains on.

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