Plug Load Management Helps Commercial Buildings Save Energy

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multiple plug load power cords plugged into power strip

Plug load management helps commercial buildings achieve energy reduction goals.

Plug load management lowers whole commercial building energy consumption by 10%, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Viewed individually – plug and process loads seem small and inconsequential to many. Yet plug loads represent the largest electrical end use in many buildings. The annual savings potential for US plug loads is approximately 1.6 Quads, which is equivalent to the energy usage of 16 million US households.

In the future, plug loads will represent an even larger percentage of whole-building energy usage. The percentage of whole-building energy attributed to PPLs is expected to increase from 40% to 49% by 2040, according to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE). In contrast, HVAC and other major end uses will decrease during the same time period according to the projections.

Despite the large potential for energy savings – up to 40% per device – plug loads are not typically monitored or controlled, even in buildings controlling other end uses.  This is unfortunate because plug load management solutions install quickly and deliver immediate energy savings.

What is Plug Load?

Let’s start by defining “plug load.” Traditionally, plug load refers to devices that are plugged into 120V/15A outlets. Common loads include printers, copiers, TVs, coffee makers, charging carts, vending machines, TVs, beverage dispensers and projectors.  At Bert, we also offer control and metering solutions for larger inline loads such as window AC and PTAC units, hot water heaters, commercial refrigeration, exhaust fans and air handing units.

Why Do Plug Loads Use So Much Energy?

It is hard to imagine that small loads can have such a big impact on the building’s energy consumption. There are two reasons plug loads represent such a large portion of a building’s base load. First, plug loads are ”vampire devices,” meaning they consume energy – even when no one is using them. In fact, many plug loads consume almost as much energy nights and weekends as they do during daytime working hours.  Second, loads like window AC and PTAC frequently run all night long.

How Does Plug Load Management Save Money?

Commercial buildngs are empty almost 75% of the time.  Plug load management solutions monitor and control plug load energy usage, continuously recording energy usage and automatically turning loads off while buildings are empty.  Devices are turned off nights and weekends, eliminating overnight standby loads. Paybacks vary depending on the device controlled, but typically range from less 12 months to 5 years.

How Does Plug Load Management Work?

Plug  load management solutions use a combination of “smart” outlets, software and integration tools to manage devices and collect building data. Smart plugs and inline hardware collect data from connected devices and transmit it over the existing 802.11 Wi-Fi network for measurement, tracking and control purposes.  All Bert hardware is intelligent and IoT-ready.  Bert controls loads ranging from 120V/15A devices to 277V/20A circuits.

Bert integrates plug load systems into existing energy management systems whenever possible. Bert works with BACnet/IP building automation systems as well as web-based analytics and energy management systems.

Does Plug Load Control Make Sense for You?

Let Bert do the math for you. We enter your building types, sizes and kWh rates into our proprietary modeling tool.  The tool calculates the expected number and types of plug and inline devices by building.  Using the occupancy hours for each building, Bert estimates energy savings using standby load data from previous projects.