Plug & Process Loads

Plug & Process Loads

Plug and process loads (PPLs) consume about 47% of primary energy in U.S. commercial buildings. As buildings become more efficient, PPL efficiency has become pertinent in achieving aggressive energy targets. Through the PPL Technology Research Team, partners participate in a platform to share experiences and learn from their peers and work together to create resources on PPL energy reduction strategies and their applications, covering a wide variety of electronic, computer, refrigeration, and cooking devices, including equipment essential to information processing, medical treatment, and foodservice businesses.

Check out the PPL Team's latest webinar: Watch Here
Plug Load Energy: Assess and Reduce
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On-Demand PPL Webinars

The Plug and Process Load Team has hosted many webinars about a variety of PPL-related topics. Access all the recordings and slide decks in the On-Demand Webinar Library.

Get Involved

The Plug and Process Load Team collaborates with researchers and industry experts to promote awareness and energy reduction through new technologies. Contact the Plug and Process Load Team to learn how you can get involved. 

2022 Better Buildings Progress Report

To date, the 900+ Better Buildings partners have saved more than 2.5 quadrillion Btus, saving more than $15 billion and 155 million tons of CO2.

Featured Solutions

This fact sheet summarizes ATLIS, a plug load management system framework that takes advantage of smart, connected devices to identify device locations in a building, meter and control their power, and communicate this information to a central system.
DOE's Integrated Lighting Campaign recognized the Minnesota Department of Transportation for installing integrated controls for plug loads and lighting systems at its Cedar Avenue Truck Station. 
This toolkit is designed to support owners and operators of existing buildings in planning retrofit and operational strategies to achieve deep carbon reductions. Low Carbon Technology Strategies are currently available for 10 building types. Recommendations are grouped by technology, with actions categorized as either simple, intermediate, or advanced.
Smart outlets control the flow of power to devices plugged into them and measure their energy use. Use this fact sheet to learn more about what smart outlets are and how to use them, how to procure smart outlets, and how to maintain a smart outlet system for optimal savings.
This guide will help office building owners and energy managers reduce PPL energy use. It includes a process for developing a PPL control strategy for office buildings.
This guide describes the process needed to cost-effectively reduce PPL energy impact in retail buildings. It includes general and appliance-specific PPL control strategies.
In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Wells Fargo's Innovation Incubator (IN2) funded the development of smart learning behavior algorithms that could simplify smart socket installation processes and expand the energy-saving potential through suitable control schedules.
This fact sheet introduces two emerging technologies that could streamline plug load management (PLM) for increased energy savings for building owners: learning behavior algorithms (LBA) and automatic and dynamic load detection (ADLD). 
List of incentives and rebates offered by utilities for plug and process load controls.
This toolkit provides guidance on understanding the numerous strategies for reducing plug and process load (PPL) energy consumption in your buildings, including how to select the right strategy for devices, building types, and occupant needs to maximize energy savings.
To address the trivial task of monitoring thousands of plug loads in today's large buildings, researchers at NREL proposed a method for combining a limited amount of smart plug metering with a device inventory to develop a disaggregated breakdown of device-level power consumption, revealing energy savings opportunities.
This report examines smart, wireless plug and process load (PPL) meter and control technologies and recommends research on integrating PPL data into EMIS platforms, making PPL data interoperable with other building end-use data and, developing and testing automatic PPL controls.

Other Resources

Case Studies

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) published a report on their Plug Load Management (PLM) System Field Study. NREL investigated PLM technology in two retail buildings, calculated associated energy and costs savings, and captured qualitative performance outcomes.
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a study comparing energy and usability of remote virtual machines (VMs) accessed through zero-client devices with traditional laptop computers to determine if zero-client computing could be a solution to reducing building energy use.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) successfully renovated the historic Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, preserving the historic features and achieving Zero Energy Building (ZEB) status. The project earned LEED Platinum certification by reducing the building’s energy consumption, with a significant focus on reducing plug and process load energy use.
To further their commitment to green building and leading by example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) included an ultra-energy-efficient data center in their new Research Support Facility, resulting in annual cost savings of $200,000 in utility bills and an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 5,000,000 pounds.
To address the trivial task of monitoring thousands of plug loads in today's large buildings, researchers at NREL proposed a method for combining a limited amount of smart plug metering with a device inventory to develop a disaggregated breakdown of device-level power consumption, revealing energy savings opportunities.
DOE's Integrated Lighting Campaign recognized the Minnesota Department of Transportation for installing integrated controls for plug loads and lighting systems at its Cedar Avenue Truck Station. 

Fact Sheets

This fact sheet summarizes ATLIS, a plug load management system framework that takes advantage of smart, connected devices to identify device locations in a building, meter and control their power, and communicate this information to a central system.
Smart outlets control the flow of power to devices plugged into them and measure their energy use. Use this fact sheet to learn more about what smart outlets are and how to use them, how to procure smart outlets, and how to maintain a smart outlet system for optimal savings.
Each advanced power strip has three outlet types for equipment with various electricity needs. This infographic from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) describes the uses for each outlet type to help determine the smartest way to power office devices and save energy.
In constructing a new research facility for its campus, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) project team identified the opportunity to design a world-class, energy-efficient data center to support its operations. In the first 11 months, this facility delivered cost savings of approximately $82,000 based on energy use cuts of nearly 1,450,000 kWh.
Prospective building occupants and real estate brokers need accurate references for PPL capacity requirements. This brochure has references that can help reduce the plug load capacities designed into buildings.
Many consumer electronics continue to draw power even when they are switched off. This is known as a "vampire load," and can add up to about $200 in yearly energy costs for an average home. By replacing standard power strips with an Advanced Power Strip (APS), you can significantly cut the amount of electricity used by your home office and entertainment center devices, and save money on your electric bill.
GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) program recently assessed the effectiveness of advanced power strips (APS) in managing plugload energy consumption in eight of its buildings. Three types of plug-load reduction strategies were evaluated: schedule timer control, load-sensing control, and a combination of the two. Results underscored the effectiveness of schedule-based functionality, which reduced plug loads at workstations by 26% and by nearly 50% in printer rooms and kitchens.
This fact sheet introduces two emerging technologies that could streamline plug load management (PLM) for increased energy savings for building owners: learning behavior algorithms (LBA) and automatic and dynamic load detection (ADLD). 

Guidance

This guide will help office building owners and energy managers reduce PPL energy use. It includes a process for developing a PPL control strategy for office buildings.
This guide describes the process needed to cost-effectively reduce PPL energy impact in retail buildings. It includes general and appliance-specific PPL control strategies.
The decision guides found in this resource were created to help building owners find the right control strategy for PPLs in their buildings.
This guide from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes how local governments have planned and implemented energy-efficient product procurement programs to reduce energy costs and create a range of environmental and economic benefits.

Policies and Incentives

List of incentives and rebates offered by utilities for plug and process load controls.

Presentation

This session highlighted innovative approaches to controlling plug loads with other systems, including highlights from a field evaluation of LED systems equipped with advanced lighting controls that interface with the HVAC systems and plug loads.

Reports

The Automatic Type and Location Identification System (or ATLIS, for short) is a plug load management system framework that takes advantage of smart, connected devices to identify device locations in a building, meter and control their power, and communicate this information to a central system. This paper describes ATLIS and details some of its many applications beyond plug load management.
Learning behavior algorithms and automatic and dynamic load detection are technology areas that could accelerate plug load management system adoption by reducing installation demands and providing additional energy efficiency and nonenergy benefits. This paper includes findings on the current state of these technologies.
This report examines smart, wireless plug and process load (PPL) meter and control technologies and recommends research on integrating PPL data into EMIS platforms, making PPL data interoperable with other building end-use data and, developing and testing automatic PPL controls.
This paper documents the methodology NREL researchers developed to identify and reduce PPLs as part of the RSF’s low energy design process.
This project demonstrated the performance of commercially available advanced power strips (APSs) for plug load energy reductions in building A4 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), Hawaii.
DOE commissioned NREL to partner with two hospitals (MGH and SUNY UMU) to collect data on the energy used for multiple thermal and electrical end-use categories.
This report documents the methodology used to procure, construct, and operate an energy-efficient data center suitable for a net-zero-energy-use building - NREL's Research Support Facility.  
This report addresses gaps in actionable knowledge that would help reduce the plug load capacities designed into buildings.
NREL has developed guidance for evaluating and selecting a range of technologies to control plug and process loads.
This study from GSA aims to provide insight on how to effectively manage plug load energy consumption and attain higher energy and cost savings for plug loads.
This paper documents the process (and results) of applying advanced power strips with various control approaches, including manual control, automatic low-power state, schedule timers, load-sensing, occupancy, and vacancy.

Specifications

This specification provides detailed selection criteria for five major APSs, and sets standards for modeling APSs. It is intended to help those who procure APSs select the most effective models for their commercial buildings.
This specification provides a description of required and recommended performance characteristics resulting in increased energy savings for Dry-LVDTs in commercial buildings.

Toolkits

This toolkit provides guidance on understanding the numerous strategies for reducing plug and process load (PPL) energy consumption in your buildings, including how to select the right strategy for devices, building types, and occupant needs to maximize energy savings.
This toolkit is designed to support owners and operators of existing buildings in planning retrofit and operational strategies to achieve deep carbon reductions. Low Carbon Technology Strategies are currently available for 10 building types. Recommendations are grouped by technology, with actions categorized as either simple, intermediate, or advanced.

Webinars

Properly managing plug loads in a building can lead to substantial energy savings and other non-energy benefits, and many of these management strategies require little to no upfront cost! Hear from building managers about their experiences and successes in managing their building’s plug loads.
How people use plug load devices can strongly affect their energy consumption. This webinar highlighted what factors are most important for certain types of devices, and how to reduce inefficiencies.
Properly managing plug loads was a key reason the Houston Advanced Research Center was able to make its headquarters the first Net Zero Energy certified office building in Texas in early 2020. This webinar explored the different stages of plug load consumption and the strategies used to manage and reduce plug loads and overall building energy consumption.
On this webinar, presenters discussed Oregon’s Statewide Plug Load Strategy, the state’s adoption of ASHRAE 90.1-2016 energy codes, and Oregon’s recently adopted Energy and Resource Conservation Policy, which includes several components of the Plug Load Strategy.
This webinar focuses on automatic receptacle controls – a method for reducing plug load energy consumption – and their inclusion in the 2021 IECC code cycle, as well as a study of how the code requirements are affecting various stakeholders.
Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) present recently published studies that describe novel approaches for better understanding device-level energy consumption in buildings.
Researchers from University of Michigan and ACEEE present their respective work on zero-client computing in office settings and energy savings from Set Top Box and small-network voluntary agreements. 
A researcher from NREL summarizes a recent field study that assessed a wireless meter and control system (a.k.a. "smart outlets") for plug loads in two retail environments.
Experts from NREL discuss the implications of navigating cybersecurity with smart outlets.
Members of the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) provide insights on their plug and process loads research focus areas that affect commercial building efficiency: plug load appliances and devices in use, consumer behavior studies, energy conservation in server rooms, and benchmarking energy efficiency prototypes and products.
Subject matter experts walk through the details of the APS specification and provide examples of how stakeholders can apply the specification (e.g., tenants in leased spaces, building owners and managers across their portfolios, utilities for energy incentive programs).
This webinar included a discussion by NREL on simple low-cost and portable plug and process loads interventions.

Additional Information

PPL Team Quarterly Update
Learn about recent activities and upcoming events from the Plug and Process Load Tech Team.

Consortium for Energy Efficiency: Distribution Transformer Initiative
The purpose of this Initiative is to drive market demand for high efficiency through assisting member programs to overcome barriers like first cost, split incentives, and absence of a consistent definition for high-performance.

DOE Appliance and Equipment Standards Program
The Building Technologies Office (BTO) implements minimum energy conservation standards for more than 60 categories of appliances and equipment. This program provides a resource to help consumers make informed decisions when selecting products in order to save energy and money.

Sector Priorities

Meet the Technology Expert

Dr. Kim Trenbath is a Research Engineer in the Building Technologies and Science Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). She leads the Better Buildings Plug and Process Loads (PPL) Technology Research Team and researches how advanced technologies can reduce PPL energy use in commercial buildings. The PPL Technology Research Team also includes Ms. Amy LeBar and Ms. Robin Tuttle. The team is transforming the PPL efficiency market through research and applied approaches. If you have PPL questions or would like more information on the PPL Team, please contact Dr. Trenbath, Ms. LeBar, and Ms. Tuttle at PPL@nrel.gov.