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8 Plug Loads that Consume the Most Energy

July 13, 2018

Make an impact on energy use in commercial buildings by targeting the plug loads that consume the most energy. These energy conservation strategies will help reduce the demand.

Where does your office waste the most electricity? Each office is different, but if yours is anything like the average, you can probably make a sizable dent in plug loads by cracking down on personal comfort devices and consolidating printers.

Computers require a lot of energy to operate. You probably can’t eliminate them from your office, but you can mitigate the energy drain by having occupants use power management settings.

The worst offenders include:

#1 Space heaters

A small personal space heater that’s designed to heat a private office or the zone immediately around the user rather than an entire room can pull upwards of 200W. If several people in your office building are using space heaters, it adds up fast. (Personal comfort devices like space heaters (pictured) are another story. Eliminating the heaters and fans people bring to the office can make a significant dent in your energy bills.)

#2 Imaging equipment

This includes printers, fax machines or all-in-one models. Some commercial printer models use 30-50W on standby mode and up to 300-500W whenever they’re actively printing. If your office uses a lot of paper, that’s a lot of extra spikes in the power consumption.

If you can’t invest in more energy-efficient printers, consider consolidating the ones you have into more central locations that can serve multiple departments, then eliminating the extras. Encourage staff to minimize printing whenever possible so the printer spends less time in active mode.

#3 Computers

In most offices, everyone needs a computer issued to them, so it’s often impossible to make the case for having fewer computers drawing power. However, you can mitigate the damage by enforcing energy-efficient power settings that will transition the computer to a low-energy sleep mode when it hasn’t been used for a while, such as during the user’s lunch break or at night.

Read also: LEED Certification Tips: Water Efficiency

Think about who in your office could make do with a laptop as well – the Federal Energy Management Program notes that ENERGY STAR desktops with power management settings enabled can use 21-83 kWh every year compared to 221 kWh for a less efficient computer with no power management settings. However, an energy-efficient laptop uses 18-28 kWh per year (or 59 kWh for a lower-efficiency model).

#4 Computer monitors 

Newer LCD screens typically consume 10-18W, according to the New Buildings Institute and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Invest in ENERGY STAR models when you can to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to monitors and other investments.

#5 Fans

Simple desktop-size fans don’t consume nearly as much energy as their cold weather counterparts, space heaters, but when it comes to saving energy and money, a watt is a watt. Plug loads for personal fans often consume somewhere in the range of 4-12W.

Trending: 4 Ways to Engage Occupants in Energy Conservation

#6 VoIP phones

Most VoIP phones on the market use Power over Ethernet (PoE) rather than the more powerful and more energy-intensive PoE+. PoE consumes a maximum of 15.4W.

#7 Task lights

LED task lights use 6-9W on average. That’s not much, especially if the user doesn’t need it all day, but it’s important to keep an eye on all plug loads. Task lights are good candidates for advanced power strips that will shut off everything plugged into them at a predetermined time.

LED task lights use 6-9W on average.

#8 Computer peripherals

Small peripherals like mice may only draw 0.5W. Survey occupants to see what else is plugged into their computers and adjust your energy efficiency plans accordingly.

Develop the business case for addressing plug loads by conducting an energy audit in your office and determining how much could be saved. A small investment in advanced power strips and better energy conservation policies regarding power management settings and turning machines off at the end of the day could make a significant impact for little to no cost.

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has been with BUILDINGS since 2010. She is a two-time FOLIO: Eddie award winner who aims to deliver practical, actionable content for building owners and facilities professionals.

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