Smart Power Strips

The modern office is full of energy-using equipment—computers, printers, copiers, task lights, fans, and other devices—much of which is left on throughout the workday and, in some cases, for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, about 7 percent of all commercial electric energy is consumed by office equipment and computers. However, because more than two-thirds of a year consists of nonbusiness hours, and because employees often don’t stay at their desks throughout the entire workday, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate that a number of common plug loads are used for as little as 10 percent of the year. This discrepancy can result in a substantial amount of wasted money for building owners and operators.

To mitigate that wasted energy, “smart” or “advanced” power strips use a variety of techniques, including timers, sensors, Internet connectivity, and automated scheduling functionality to turn equipment off when it’s not in use—saving enough electricity to enable simple payback periods of less than two years in many cases. Smart power strips can be used to control a variety of devices, including coffee machines, space heaters, printers, water coolers, and computer monitors.

A research effort in New York involving a small office building found that by implementing plug load controllers like smart power strips, overall (not just plug load) consumption could be reduced by as much as 10 percent through eliminating after-hours electricity usage. Table 1 summarizes which devices were most often left on after hours.

Table 1: Common devices left on after hours
In a study of a small office building in New York, water dispensers, coffee makers, and desktop computers were found to be the most common devices left on after hours.
Common devices left on after hours
What Are the Options?
How to Make the Best Choice
What’s on the Horizon?
Who Are the Manufacturers?

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