Reducing Phantom Power Loads

Energy Efficiency Through Plug Load Control: Not Exciting…But Effective

Energy Manager Today, July 6, 2016

A July feature at Automated Buildings put the topic in context. The piece, written by Alerton’s Kevin Callahan and Kevin Clinger, pointed to two reasons that plug loads should be paid attention to. Ensuring continuity of operations is one. The other, of course, is promoting energy efficiency. The piece says that 15 percent to 20 percent of electricity in new offices flow through the plugs – with the portion reaching 40 percent to 60 percent in some cases.

The percentage is growing for two reasons, the authors write. Since the efficiency of HVAC and other systems is growing, the percentage of electricity used, even if a constant actual amount is being used, would represent a bigger piece of the pie. Real growth – an actual increase in the amount of electricity from plugged devices – is occurring because of the proliferation of office equipment.

The building industry has entered an era of more sophisticated management. Plug loads are no exception:

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.

An article from early this year at focused on both the technical and human side of reducing plug loads. The human side of the equation is pretty straight forward: A device that is not needed should not be plugged in and one that is necessary should be used – and well managed. Handling phantom loads — the electricity that flows through plugged in devices even when they are off — can lead to great efficiencies.

The piece points out that shared equipment – office printers, for example – tend to be more poorly managed because they are no single person’s responsibility. The story says that naming a “plug load champion” who coordinates efforts to have employees cut down on plug use is a good idea.

On the technical side, sub-metering will provide employees with information about the amount of electricity they are using. This, combined with incentives – even gaming approaches – can put the organization on the road to savings. Advanced power strips also are keys to monitoring and ultimately controlling individuals’ energy use.

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