Managing Plug Loads Saves on Energy Costs at Your Facility

January 22, 2023


Jan  22, 2023

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest differences between a positive or negative line item on a facility manager’s operations budget.

Take, for example, the unobtrusive plug load. It’s defined as energy used by electric equipment powered by an AC outlet. What often appears small and hidden out of site, however, can amount to a large drain on your facility’s energy costs.

How much of an expense will vary depending on the energy efficiency of your facility. Generally, plug loads amount to 30 percent of an office’s electrical use, according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

The percentages of energy use in buildings due to plug loads, however, largely depend on code compliance, the GSA says. For buildings following minimal energy compliance regulations, the consumption rate can amount to 25 percent. For high efficiency buildings, that rate of consumption can exceed 50 percent.

And, those energy numbers may drop or fall at your facility depending on the number of phantom or vampire loads that route electricity to equipment turned off or in a standby mode.

The good news: Experts believe plug loads can be cut by as much as 50 percent, just by following easy compliance strategies that will cost your facility very little if anything to implement.

To solve this problem, it’s important to know where this waste “hides.” A recent study by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) found 95 percent of the total energy use stemming from plug loads comes from three things:

Imaging equipment and computer peripherals (17 percent)

Computer monitors (9 percent)

Desktop computers (69 percent)

Then, experts point to gathering measurements to establish a baseline for plug loads, with the common metric being watts per square foot (W/sf) in a defined area, more evidence that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

For example, experts discovered metrics that exceeded 6 W/sf for specified use in standard designs when actual use was a fraction (less than 1 W/sf).

Once you’ve done your calculations, it’s time to make some changes. The NBI suggests these five easy steps to manage plug loads more efficiently at your facility.

Identify equipment that uses the most power, focusing on devices used most often.

Get rid of or unplug unnecessary equipment.

Replace old energy hogs with more energy efficient equipment.

Turn off your devices when you’re not using them.

Explain to staffers why it’s important to save on energy by powering down.

(For more detailed information, download NBI’s Plug Load Best Practices Guide for Offices.)

For help with corralling your facility’s energy costs, contact Vanguard Resources