Utilities losing efficiency ground to plug loads


The biggest energy consumers in homes or offices include sources of plug loads like aquariums and video game consoles, but these technology energy hogs are given very little mind, according to research from E Source.

Plug loads are huge energy hogs, accounting for as much as 15 percent of all residential electricity consumption and 20 percent of commercial consumption.

Although new advances and utility incentives have made some technologies more energy efficient, the gains are turning to losses with the proliferation of plugged-in technology like smartphones, TVs, computers, etc. Much of the energy from plug load is consumed even when electronic devices are turned off or in standby mode. Known as phantom power, most users don't care. But even though each individual item consumes relatively little power when combined the load adds up quickly.

"North American households waste about $7 billion a year on phantom loads alone," said Spencer Sator, manager of the E Source Technology Assessment Service, representing 50 million tons of carbon dioxide or enough energy to power 6 million households.

Although utilities have for years been working to reduce overall plug load power draw and phantom power use, but the rapid proliferation of electronics has far outpaced their progress. Plug loads are predicted to become more dominant energy users than any other technology.

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