Plug Load

This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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A plug load is basically any piece of equipment or electronics that plugs into an outlet in a building, including televisions, cell phone chargers, laptops, entertainment equipment, and blenders. Larger appliances are often considered to be a separate category, but are sometimes also categorized as plug loads.

When designing a building to meet code, or to estimate energy use, designers generally take major building systems, such as lighting and HVAC, and major appliances, such as refrigeration and wet cleaning equipment, into account. But it is much harder to estimate all the plug loads that buildings occupants will bring with them. And plug loads have been increasing over time as people accumulate gadgets and equipment. As the other loads in a building are driven down through increased equipment efficiency, optimized controls, and behavioral changes, plug loads are a sizeable percentage of the remaining load.

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There have been a number of efforts to regulate the efficiency of certain plug loads – California approved television efficiency standards in 2009.

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Martin Holladay, at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, describes the importance of taking plug loads into account when calculating building energy use in a post here.

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A California Plug-Load Energy Efficiency Center is being planned and will be hosted by the University of California, Irvine. My understanding is that it will be modeled after the California Lighting Technology Center and the Western Cooling Efficiency Center, both located at UC Davis.

A pdf of the PowerPoint slides from the planning workshop can be read here.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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