Plug Loads and Tenant Energy Use Reduction

A guide to saving energy in tenant occupied spaces.

Tech Overview

Applicable Buildings Types multifamily, commercial
When to Implement anytime, at time of tenant overturn

*Be sure to consult a qualified service provider to determine the right measures for your building.

What are Plug Loads and Tenant Energy Use?

Plug loads refer to the amount of energy used through electrical outlets for things like electronics and appliances in tenant-occupied spaces that, along with lighting and other energy consuming equipment, add up to a significant portion of electricity use in buildings, especially commercial offices. Energy use in tenant spaces can be significantly reduced by adopting simple user engagement strategies, upgrading to efficient appliances and equipment, sub-metering tenant spaces, and installing smart lighting controls.

Fig 1. A lighting vacancy sensor saves energy by automatically turning off lights when a room is empty.

How to Implement

Tenant education and energy conservation programs can begin anytime, whereas equipment, appliance, and control upgrades are best implemented during tenant turnovers. There are multiple steps to reducing plug loads and tenant energy use in multifamily and commercial buildings. Download the full tech primer to learn more about each of the following steps:
A. Commercial Strategies include installing sub-meters with feedback to tenants and vacancy sensors, using ENERGY STAR certified appliances, and including power usage effectiveness in lease documents
B. Multifamily Strategies include installing sub-meters, using ENERGY STAR certified appliances and high-efficiency electric stoves, and encourage tenants to deactivate power strips and electronics, turn off routers, cable boxes, coffee machines, and televisions when not in use

Cost and Benefits

Cost and benefits of plug load and tenant energy reduction will vary depending on your building’s baseline systems and conditions. Typically, buildings can expect to see the following results:
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Savings
 Plug load reductions can significantly lower electricity-related GHG emissions without compromising tenant experience.
Tenant Experience Improvement
Upgrading appliances to more efficient models improves tenant experience, and removing gas appliances from apartments reduces fire risk and harmful combustion products from the air.
Utility Savings
If the building is sub-metered, owners will see little change in utility bills as most utility savings will appear on tenant bills.
Capital Cost
A small capital investment is required for installing sub-metering, appliance upgrades, and other plug load reduction
Maintenance Requirement
Regular engagement with tenants may improve how building staff execute operations and maintenance tasks.

Take Action

This information is part of more than a dozen High Performance Technology Primers prepared by the Building Energy Exchange and the Retrofit Accelerator to introduce decision-makers to solutions that can help them save energy and improve comfort in their buildings. Curious about other retrofitting possibilities? Explore our complete library of Tech Primers here.
The NYC Retrofit Accelerator’s team of Efficiency Advisors offers free, personalized advisory services to help streamline the process of making energy efficient improvements to your buildings.
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