5 Steps to Plug Load Savings

In the goal of reducing energy costs, businesses–-even those in the energy efficiency industry–have historically focused on upgrades to equipment and facilities, while largely ignoring occupant behavior. But as building systems improve in efficiency, the human side of the energy equation is becoming more important. In fact, as plug loads account for a growing percentage of commercial building electricity consumption, the industry is starting to better understand the ways that occupant behavior contributes dramatically to a building’s energy use–and particularly those related to plug loads.  After all, buildings don’t use energy, people do.

Fortunately, for owners and occupants, plug load electricity costs can often be lowered by 40% with some simple low- and no-cost measures, such as reducing electronic device time in active and idle modes.

That’s just one of many strategies outlined in Plug Load Best Practices Guide, which NBI is proudly releasing this month to help office and facilities managers address the growing energy use and costs associated with plug loads. Reducing plug loads isn’t rocket science, but it certainly takes some careful planning. The guide outlines 5 steps for doing just this—the last of which is all about occupant behavior.

The 5 steps include:
1) Review– identify needs and inventory equipment that contribute to plug load energy use;
2) Remove– eliminate and/or unplug unnecessary devices;
3) Replace – upgrade replacement equipment to the most energy-efficient devices;
4) Reduce – turn off or powering down equipment when not in use; and
5) Retrain – engage staff so that they understand why and how to change their plug load habits.The guide also describes simple methods for reducing needless energy consumption by some of the obvious culprits such as computers, monitors, imaging equipment, servers, and computer peripherals. But it also includes pertinent information regarding plug loads that may be coming from less evident sources like portable fans, space heaters, water coolers, coffee makers and vending machines.UPDATE: The Plug Load Best Practices Guide is now available. Read MoreFor more recent findings on plug load energy impacts and solutions, access the 2011 Commercial Office Plug Load Savings Assessment here.