Skip to content

June 30, 2011

Rethinking Physical Plant Power

By Larry Walsh

Every flat-screen television and cable box has a little red (or green) light that indicates they’re ready to be turned on. It’s also an indication of electricity being wasted. In fact, some of these devices consume more electricity than the average household refrigerator.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, set-top cable boxes and digital video recorders (DVRs) consume more than 446 kilowatt-hours of power per year. This is more than most refrigerators. Conventional set-top boxes consume 160 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, costing Americans more than $3 billion collectively. And the power waste is only going to get worse as more always-on or instant-on devices are added by homeowners.

Set-top boxes and televisions are only an example of the larger problem of “electricity vampires,” or devices and systems that are always consuming kilowatts even when they’re not in use. Every device plugged into a wall socket will draw some electricity from the line, but the amount varies depends on the device purpose. In commercial buildings, electricity vampires are worse – as everything from heating systems, elevators and escalators are constantly running even during off hours.

Technology vendors and innovative startups are working to ward off power drains through the creation of smart buildings. This goes beyond designing buildings with energy efficient features and environmentally friendly materials. It’s about integrating physical plant management systems with network management.

For instant, North Carolina startup Consert has developed a system in which it’s outfitting thousands of residential homes with sensors that monitor appliance power consumption. Homeowners are able to throttle power consumption to save money. Consert, an IBM business partner, sells electricity consumption data to power generators to facilitate more efficient production planning. The savings to power generators is equivalent to the cost of constructing a new power plant.

Business Technology Partners, a Cisco business partner, was contracted by the Trump Organization to design the entire integrated IT system for the new Trump SOHO Hotel in Manhattan. Everything from building HVAC to in-room guest services is managed over the same network. Building operators are able to turn off systems such as elevators, lighting and air condition when it’s not needed.

These are just two examples of smart building construction and the energy savings that comes from their implementation. As smart buildings evolve from a nicety to a necessity, IT vendors, electricity component manufacturers, architects and facility planners will form tighter relationships and create better systems that will not only make facility management more efficient, but likely make life and work easier.

Comments are closed.