Plug and Process Loads Project Team

Commercial process and plug loads—such as computers, printers, fax machines, beverage dispensers, and ATM machines—account for nearly 4 quads of primary energy per year, or about 20% of commercial building energy use. In recent years, this has been one of the fastest-growing areas of building energy use. Fortunately, plug loads can provide some of the easiest, most cost-effective energy-savings opportunities.

The Better Buildings Alliance (BBA) Plug and Process Loads (PPL) Project Team members work to develop metering, design, procurement, and operational strategies to improve the efficiency of plug and process equipment and reduce unnecessary use of idle or duplicative equipment.

For a list of BBA member companies currently participating on the Plug and Process Loads Project Team, please see below. If you would like to work on the PPL Project Team and are a BBA member, email the BBA coordinator. If you are not a member, learn more about joining BBA.

Current Project Team Initiatives

  • PPL Capacity Analysis: When occupants request PPL densities (W/ft2) that are higher than what they need, electrical infrastructure and HVAC systems can be oversized, increasing capital and operating costs. When requests are closer to actual use, designers can select and size other systems more effectively. This project will examine PPL densities during building operation to help improve system sizing practices. Potential benefits include (1) reduced capital costs, (2) more energy-efficient system operation, and (3) improved ability of designers to model and optimize interacting systems to achieve aggressive whole-building energy performance goals. For example, effective plug load planning, along with lighting and envelope load reductions, enabled designers of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Research Support Facility in Golden, Colorado, to implement an energy-efficient radiant cooling system; this HVAC option would not have been possible with a traditional approach to internal loads.
  • Members are encouraged to participate in the development, promotion, or adoption of energy-efficient PPL specifications, including:
    • BBA Distribution Transformers Specification: Distribution transformers built for commercial buildings according to the specification can reduce energy use by more than 15%, compared with typical transformers. An older transformer in a typical 45,000-square-foot office building can consume 16,000 kWh and cost more than $1,500 in electricity costs per year; replacing it with a transformer that meets the specification could save up to $5,000 over 5 years. If all distribution transformers in U.S. commercial buildings were replaced with transformers that met the energy requirements in this specification, businesses could save 3.2 TWh of energy, or about $310 million in energy costs per year.
    • Members are encouraged to provide comments during ENERGY STAR®'s development and revision process for PPL equipment specifications.
  • Ongoing activities include encouraging companies and institutions to adopt best practices, such as:
    • Creating formal corporate or institutional policies to integrate energy performance criteria into purchasing practices
    • Evaluating winning products from industry competitions for potential procurement
    • Separating PPLs from other end uses when designing electric panels to facilitate present or future metering
    • Incorporating existing guidance from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into organization policy.

Resources and Past Initiatives

Energy-Saving Ideas

These tips can help you save energy and money in your commercial building portfolio.

Establish a Corporate Purchasing Policy

By purchasing and specifying energy-efficient products, organizations can cut energy use, achieve enormous cost savings, and help reduce air pollution associated with burning fossil fuels. Instituting an effective policy can be as easy as asking your procurement officials to specify ENERGY STAR-qualified products, such as office equipment, in their contracts or purchase orders. This can be made simple by inserting model procurement language (customized as necessary) into procurement contracts for energy-consuming products and systems. Organizations can verify compliance with procurement policies and identify opportunities for additional savings by checking equipment for the ENERGY STAR label during routine product inventories.

EPA provides purchasing and procurement resources that can help organizations obtain energy-efficient products. These resources include lists of qualifying products, key product criteria, drop-in procurement language, and savings calculators. Visit the ENERGY STAR Purchasing and Procurement website for more information. For products not covered under ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) establishes minimum efficiency levels for Federal Government purchases. Other institutions and buyers may be interested in adopting these efficiency requirements internally. Both ENERGY STAR- and FEMP-designated products use less energy than their traditional counterparts, reduce fossil fuel use, and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Visit the FEMP Energy-Efficient Products page.

Members of BBA Project Teams also develop technology specifications that can be used to procure high-efficiency equipment.

Engage Building Occupants

Building occupants can do their part to minimize loads and costs by turning off equipment at night and on weekends. However, influencing employee behavior requires more than simply issuing memos or directives. Successful and sustainable awareness and behavior programs have all of these elements in common:

  • Effective communication: Successful programs clearly communicate energy-management goals and the reasons why the change in behavior is desired. Program managers should use materials—such as posters, videos, or pamphlets—to spread the word and decide how to distribute the information. Successful programs also have easy-to-use mechanisms for gathering employee input and returning feedback from management on how employee input is helping the organization accomplish its goals. Some companies use monthly emails to solicit ideas, others hold monthly or quarterly meetings with employees, and some do both.
  • Measurement: Successful programs regularly measure and track energy use and communicate progress to employees.
  • Rewards and recognition: Successful programs give credit where credit is due. Rewards and recognition give employees a true sense of accomplishment and help to build a personal sense of ownership in the program.
  • Leadership by example: Successful programs recruit energy champions. Employees who see executives, upper management, and peers that they respect "walking the walk" are significantly more likely to adopt a change and sustain the effort.

The following resources can help you develop successful energy-awareness programs:

Teach Employees About Computer Power-Management Features

Most computer equipment sold today can be set to enter a low-power sleep mode after a period of inactivity. This inexpensive approach encourages users to take advantage of these features. Note that the power-management setting that puts the monitor to sleep is different from the screen saver—monitors can still use full power while a screen saver is running. Meet with information technology (IT) staff, energy-management staff, and executive-management staff to explain the plan. Then, send emails to employees explaining how to enable power management on their computers and urging them to do so, or conduct a quick demonstration at a regularly-scheduled meeting. Provide "refresher" training every once in a while to encourage continued savings.

Use Third-Party Software for Computer Power Management

Several software packages target energy savings across computer networks. Each package has advantages and disadvantages that are important to evaluate for the best fit. For example, if the company wants to control monitors only, the EPA's free software may be the right choice. On the other hand, if a workforce has diverse schedules and computer usage patterns, a product that offers group-specific power-management settings may be the most appropriate. For help selecting a power-management solution and other IT tips, visit EPA's Five Ways to Reduce IT Energy Costs.

Conserve in the Kitchen

Most commercial buildings have small kitchen areas where occupants can prepare coffee, lunch, or snacks. Microwave ovens, coffee machines, and refrigerators are common in these areas. Microwave ovens and stoves generally consume energy in direct proportion to the need for warming foods, refrigerators run continuously, and coffee machines may be left on longer than necessary. Vending machines are typically lighted and often refrigerated continuously, consuming energy 24 hours per day. Because this equipment is located within conditioned space, its use of electricity also generates heat that contributes to cooling loads. To reduce energy use and heat generation, purchase ENERGY STAR–labeled kitchen equipment such as refrigerators, water coolers, and vending machines.

Additional Information

Read meeting minutes from the BBA PPL project team call on December 6th, 2012.

Sign up to receive updates from the PPL Project Team or request more information.

Plug and Process Loads Team Members

  • American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc.
  • First Potomac Realty Trust
  • Glenborough, LLC
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Gundersen Lutheran Health System
  • Hines
  • Legacy Health System
  • Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Global Corporate Services
  • PeaceHealth
  • Stanford University
  • The Home Depot, Inc.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • U.S. General Services Administration
  • Wawa, Inc.