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Electrical Power Strip

Are Your Occupants Stealing Electricity by Charging Cell Phones?

As plug loads become a bigger piece of a facility’s energy budget, facility managers should look for ways to reduce. But some strategies may be a bridge too far.    August 25, 2022


By Greg Zimmerman, senior contributing editor


A TikTok video recently went viral showing the following sign. It says “Please do not charge any phones on the premises. It is theft of electricity and will be deducted from your pay. All phones must be turned off.” There is no further information about what type of facility this sign was in, or even whether it’s authentic. But you had to laugh.

For facility managers, this is probably nothing more than a laugh. Of course, it’s preposterous that you wouldn’t let occupants charge cell phones in the office. But it does bring up a more serious issue about how much of a facility’s energy spend is plug loads these days. 

As HVAC and lighting are becoming more and more efficient, that means the third piece of the electricity pie – plug loads – becomes a higher overall percentage of a facility’s total energy use. This will become even more true as EV charging becomes more prominent at commercial facilities. 

Facility managers do have several options for reducing plug loads in buildings. GSA’s Sustainable Facility Tool offers a guide on how to do just that. It includes everything from using smart power strips to reducing task lighting. While the guide does suggest occupants bring portable charges to charge cell phones or other devices as one way to reduce plug loads, it does not, however, claim that charging cell phones is stealing electricity.  

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