It comes as no surprise that plug loads (also known as “miscellaneous energy loads”) are one of the fastest-growing sources of energy use in commercial and institutional buildings. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 15% to 20% of total energy use is dedicated to supporting plug load: computers, monitors, printers, phones, task lights, coffeemakers, rechargeable tools, space heaters, fans, copiers, cell phone chargers, or anything that is plugged in.
Buildings that have invested in energy-efficient HVAC or lighting upgrades can sometimes see plug loads as high as 50% of total energy use. (Because these efficient building systems are using less energy, plug load becomes a bigger part of the equation.) In 2011, the EIA estimated that plug load levels would grow by another 60% by 2030.
Until recently, commercial building owners haven’t had a benchmark to compare plug load energy use against. The New Buildings Institute (NBI) noticed this gap, however, and developed the first-ever set of plug load energy use metrics. The metrics have already been put to the test with PECI’s Portland office facility. After featuring a competition in 2012 to encourage occupants on each of PECI’s three floors to reduce plug loads through behavior changes, the company saw impressive results … but knew it could achieve even deeper energy savings.
As a result, PECI decided to compare its plug load usage to NBI’s new metrics. The company found that plug-load performance during normal business hours was in check; however, in the evening hours, PECI’s plug load was higher that the metrics’ median. So PECI started another initiative focused on reducing plug load even further. By making easy adjustments, such as asking employees to shut down computers at night, the company reduced its plug load by another 18%.
Will you use NBI’s new plug load energy use metrics to benchmark your facility’s plug load? Why or why not?