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Energy Chickens Help Save Plug-Load Energy


As high-performance building systems become more and more efficient, concentrating on reducing plug loads takes on increasing priority. It’s simple math – as the HVAC and lighting pieces of the energy pie shrink, the plug load piece increases and can be as much as 46 percent in some super efficient or zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. So by reducing plug loads dramatically, it’s possible to reduce the size of the pie.

There are many ways to do reduce plug loads, ranging from new technologies to instituting stricter policies and procedures on what occupants can use at their workstations and in common areas to fascinating experiments in psychology and behavioral analysis.

Regarding the latter, one of the more fascinating things I learned about at Greenbuild last month was a program created by a researcher at Penn State University he affectionately calls Energy Chickens. The program ties an “energy chicken” – a virtual “pet” that bears more than a passing resemblance to an Angry Bird – to an energy-using device. As the occupant uses the device (a computer, task light, etc.) energy efficiently, the chicken is healthy. If the occupant is energy inefficient, the chicken gets sick. Of course, occupants don’t want their chickens to get sick, so they tend to concentrate more on efficiency – this according to David Kareda of the Integral Group, who has seen Energy Chickens in action.

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