Plug Load Best Practices Guide

Guideline / July 17, 2012 / Building Innovation, New Construction

The Plug Load Best Practices Guide outlines no-cost and low-cost measures for reducing the energy and costs associated with plug loads, or any device that is plugged into a building’s electrical system—think computers, printers and data servers. The guide, based on research by Ecova and NBI, was developed to help office managers, facilities managers and occupants alike manage the growing plug load associated with office equipment. Funding support for the research and development of the guide was provided by the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.


Why Plug Loads?

Plug loads are one of the fastest growing sources of energy use in commercial buildings today.  In offices, they account for 15-20 % of office electricity use. In offices that have already improved the efficiency of their lighting and HVAC systems, that number can be as much as 50%. In fact, recent studies in California have shown that office equipment can reach as high as 40-60% of all electricity consumed in office buildings.

Reducing plug loads is a primary challenge in the design and operation of an advanced building. It’s also an issue that can be addressed in any building. While a combination of no- and low-cost steps can be taken to minimize plug loads, there is also an important end-user component; education of occupants must play a key role in the control and ongoing management of plug loads.

Inside the Plug Load Best Practices Guide

Whether you’re an energy efficiency manager, building owner or tenant, this guide will help you assess current plug loads, make the case for addressing plug load energy use, identify energy-saving priorities, create an energy reduction plan and engage occupants to ensure ongoing plug load management.

A 5-Step process for plug load reduction:

  1. Review. Identify your needs, inventory your equipment and focus on the devices that use the most energy–usually, that’s the equipment you use the most.
  2. Remove. Eliminate or unplug unnecessary devices.
  3. Replace. When it’s time to replace, purchase the most energy-efficient devices for the job.
  4. Reduce. Turn it off or power it down when not in use.
  5. Retrain. Engage staff. Make sure they understand why, when and how to power down.

The guide includes a special section about managing data server plug loads and simple ways to reduce their energy consumption.  You’ll also find a list of additional recommended resources for managing plug loads (also see link below).

More on Plug Loads

Energy Management Trends: The Power Of Plugs—An article about the guide, co-written by Cathy Higgins, Research Director, and published by Today’s Facility Manager.

Recommended Online Plug Load Resources

Report: Commercial Office Plug Load Savings and Assessment: Executive Summary