Written by: Sormeh Konjkav
As part of our efforts to promote and implement energy efficiency and energy savings measures across the commercial building market, some of our Waypoint Energy employees serve as technical experts for the Department of Energy’s Better Building Alliance’s (BBA) Plug and Process Load (PPL) Technical Team. Through the PPL Technical Team, Waypoint Energy helps partners overcome barriers to implementing PPL solutions in their spaces across a number PPL energy reduction strategies and applications: a wide variety of electronic, computer, refrigeration, and cooking devices, including equipment essential to information processing, medical treatment, and food service businesses.
Waypoint decided to walk-the-talk and install Advanced Power Strips (APSs) at our office in San Francisco as a way to save energy at workstations. With the evolving trends in office space, especially in California’s Bay Area, there’s a new progression towards more and more open office spaces. In an open office setting, employee devices are often connected and bundled into shared power sources, and location placement for APSs presents a new barrier to workstation-level plug load efficiency. For closed office settings, employees typically have personal cubicle spaces with their own personal devices, so APSs can be linked to the group of an individual’s devices at their workstation and controls are dependent on that individual’s presence.
Here’s an image of our headquarters with rows of open office desks.
Speaking from experience, here’s our example of the complexities that arise with sharing an APS: say we set up a motion-sensor APS to power devices that are operated by Fiona and Joey who sit directly across from each other, and the motion sensor with a 30-minute inactivity timer is located at Fiona’s desk. If Fiona doesn’t come in to the office one day, then Joey would have to periodically walk over to Fiona’s desk every 30 minutes to re-activate the sensor. That loses productivity and is annoying to Joey which doesn’t help his morale.
So how did Waypoint make APS's functional in a shared plug-strip open office setting?
First we needed to make sure we chose the right type of APS, with the choice of a light sensor, motion sensor, or footswitch for controls. We unanimously decided that a light sensor wouldn’t be able to recognize someone at their desk since the open office style minimizes the extremities of light density that closed-office cubicles can have.
Footswitches on the other hand, allow for manual control and eliminate the reliability on auto-sensing technologies that light sensors have. We realized however that identifying a placement that wouldn’t be invasive to one employee’s space and determining who and when devises should be switched on and off may arise as issues. So motion sensors seemed like the best APS option for us, but we knew we needed to find the optimal placement to be effective while not creating a bothersome situation for anyone.
Waypoint found the key.
Placing the motion sensor at the open edge of the base of the desk closest to the hallway. This way, even if the farthest desk belongs to the only user in the office at the time, the sensor would turn on as they walk to their desk and re-activate every time they walk away from and back to their desk. So far, the Waypoint APS users have had zero problems with this new placement – so much so that they forget we are in fact using advanced power strips!
Waypoint overcame a special hurdle for managing plug load usage in our open office space – and we do the same when helping BBA members consider plug load efficiency in their commercial spaces. Join the Better Buildings Alliance to promote energy efficiency for your organization and leverage resources and technical expertise on PPLs and other energy saving strategies. For assistance with your special plug load efficiency hurdles or for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.