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What are Plug Loads?

You may see this device plugged into workstations, copy machines and other office equipment in the next few weeks. It is one of three of these devices I have on loan from the PG&E Energy Center in San Francisco. It measures the kilowatt hours used by any electrical device and can calculate costs on an annual, monthly or weekly basis. I have become increasingly interested in “phantom loads”, all that power that is consumed while our office machines wait to be used.  For example the Resource Station by my office has a computer, monitor and two scanners and is almost always left on 24 hours a day. Last night in the fourteen hours it was on while nobody was in the office it drew 2.26 kilowatt hours. Doesn’t sound like much but in the 6,256 hours it is left on when nobody is in the office it uses $177 dollars worth of electricity each year. This is 938 KWH per year which would probably be equivalent of  a pretty high residential monthly power bill.

There are lots of emerging technologies that I hope we will use in the new office. Some are as simple as occupancy sensors attached to plug strips which shut off all non essential power if you leave your desk for a period of time. We are  using  this at the new Yuba Center in Clear Lake.  New building wide  systems, similar to what we are using for daylight controls in our more sophisticated buildings, can sweep off circuits after hours and are intelligent enough to know if someone is working in that part of the building.

In the meantime think about all those transformers and devices sucking power around the office. If you can turn off a printer or copier on the way out as well as your computer we’d be  all the better. We are the best occupancy sensor devices. I’ll be tallying up the frightening numbers and showing some of the control systems  coming to the fore in  a Wine Wednesday presentation in coming  months.

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