Managing Office Plug Loads

5 Simple Steps for Managing Your Plug Load

New Buildings Institute

Step 1: Review

Start smart by gathering your data.

  • Who are your stakeholders?
    Identify who in your office should be involved in decisions about plug-load devices. Stakeholder expertise is critical to achieving buy-in.
  • What is your budget, and what are your goals?
    Your plan will depend on what it is you want to accomplish. Zero net energy? Cost reductions? Better public relations? Consider payback times—upfront costs may be offset by energy savings on your utility bills.
  • What types of plug loads do you use?
    Make an informal inventory. Computers, monitors, server rooms and imaging equipment like printers usually use the most energy, but don’t overlook other plugged-in devices. Space heaters, water coolers, task lights and fans can also use considerable amounts of electricity.
  • How and when does your office use plug loads? During your inventory, note when plug loads are used. Look for seldom used individual printers or duplicate monitors. Are all your devices essential all day and every day? Are they left on when not in use or overnight?

Step 2–Remove

If you discover devices that are not being used, consult with your IT department. When appropriate, simply remove the unused devices or at least make sure they’re turned off.

Step 3–Reduce

When it comes to energy reduction, the best rule of thumb is simply to turn off or unplug equipment when it’s not in use. It’s as easy as that. But because people are the energy-users, people also need to be the energy-savers. Send your staff a quick ‘power down’ email reminder toward the end of each workday—within a few weeks, more staff will be ipping the switch and becoming part of the solution.

One way to make it easier to power down is to use an advanced plug strip. Two types of strips are particularly helpful:

  • Load-sensing plug strips use a master/slave approach. They can be set so that when you turn off your computer, everything else in the plug strip also turns off.
  • Occupancy-sensing plug strips detect the presence or absence of a user and automatically turn equipment on and off in response.

Step 4–Replace

When it’s time to replace old equipment, buy the most energy- efficient and appropriately sized options that meet your needs. Establish energy performance purchasing requirements to ensure that only the most efficient devices are considered. Keep these suggestions in mind when replacing old office electronics.

Step 5–Retrain

Remember that buildings don’t use energy, people do.

Everyone has a role in managing plug loads. To get the best results from new energy-saving measures, keep office staff well-informed. Offer training on new devices such as timers, advanced plug strips and power management settings. And make sure your staff understands why these measures are so important: They save money, they reduce power plant emissions and they help keep our communities—and our planet—healthy and strong. Send email reminders, especially when new saving devices or procedures are introduced. You might even consider friendly team-building or interoffice competitions that reward reductions in energy use.

And don’t forget to check in with staff to find out if everything is working—if not, determine why not, and work to find a strategy that suits the needs of your staff and still saves energy.