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Plug Load Management for Your Building

August 21, 2012 | 0 comments

plug load managementAmongst lighting, HVAC, and window upgrades, as facilities managers work hard to lower energy use, an often-overlooked component is plug load.

Plug loads consist of devices powered from an electrical outlet; they aren’t hard-wired or regulated by energy codes. Whenever a device is plugged in, it adds to your facility’s plug load, which then increases your electricity consumption. These devices include computers and peripherals (speakers, printers, monitors), scanners, copiers, radios, fax machines, TVs, chargers for phones and tablets, fans and space heaters, microwaves and refrigerators, coffee machines, vending machines, task lighting, etc.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, plug loads are one of the largest, fastest-growing end-uses in the commercial sector when compared to water heaters, large appliances, lighting, and HVAC. Plug loads currently make up about 30 percent of the typical commercial office building’s energy consumption.

Controlling plug load involves a combination of three options: raising tenant and occupant awareness, installing controls, and purchasing efficient equipment.

Raising Awareness

Plug load is affected by the habits of building tenants and occupants. Simple, no-cost options like placing calendar reminders on computers/smartphones and hanging signs near equipment can reduce electricity.

Giving a specific tenant or occupant responsibility for a piece of equipment (making sure it’s off when they leave each night) can also help control plug loads.

Paying attention to things like space planning and temperature/lighting levels can also make a difference. For example, low-rise panels allow more exposure to daylight and may reduce task light requirements. Adjusting HVAC or installing window film may stop excessive use of fans and space heaters.


Power management software can be used to configure sleep and shutdown times for computers company-wide. (You can override these settings when computers need to stay on all evening or weekend to run reports or updates.)

Smart power strips can be used to shut down power to any devices that go into standby mode (products in standby mode still use energy). These power strips can be plugged into occupancy sensors or timers to control their on/off modes.

Efficient Equipment

In situations where the device can’t be controlled, removed, or shut off, smart choices can be made to encourage energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR appliances and office equipment can be purchased, LED task lights can be used, etc.  

Have you checked the plug load in your building? What methods do you use to keep plug load in check?

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