Space Heaters, Computers, Cell Phone Chargers: How Plugged In Are Commercial Buildings?
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Space Heaters, Computers, Cell Phone Chargers: How Plugged In Are Commercial Buildings?

  • Author(s): Sanchez, Marla
  • Webber, Carrie
  • Brown, Richard
  • Busch, John
  • Pinckard, Margaret
  • Roberson, Judy
  • et al.

Evidence of electric plug loads in commercial buildings is visible everyday: space heaters, portable fans, and the IT technician's two monitors connected to one PC. The Energy Information Administration estimates that office and miscellaneous equipment together will consume 2.18 quads in 2006, nearly 50 percent of U.S. commercial electricity use. Although the importance of commercial plug loads is documented, its very nature (diverse product types, products not installed when building initially constructed, and products often hidden in closets) makes it difficult to accurately count and categorize the end use.We audited sixteen buildings in three cities (San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh) including office, medical and education building types. We inventoried the number and types of office and miscellaneous electric equipment as well as estimated total energy consumption due to these product types. In total, we audited approximately 4,000 units of office equipment and 6,000 units of miscellaneous equipment and covered a diverse range of products ranging from electric pencil sharpeners with a unit energy consumption (UEC) of 1 kWh/yr to a kiln with a UEC of 7,000 kWh/yr. Our paper presents a summary of the density and type of plug load equipment found as well as the estimated total energy consumption of the equipment. Additionally, we present equipment trends observed and provide insights to how policy makers can target energy efficiency for this growing end use.

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