Smart plugs for sustainability – environment friendly?
As the energy crisis takes a hit on households and businesses alike, the need to keep track of electricity consumption is more pressing than ever, and it not only benefits expensive bills but the environment, too.
While most may be consciously making the effort to keep energy consumption down by keeping a check on lighting and heating, one often-neglected energy drain is plug sockets. While workplaces are starting to ramp up their office days – about 25% of energy usage in a building comes from plugged-in electricals, according to Honeywell.
Why? Well, offices are only occupied about a third of the week following the Covid pandemic, and in the time they aren’t occupied, all these electrics that stay plugged in, or on standby, are wasting energy.
So, what can office buildings do to manage this wastage and protect both their bills and the environment? One solution is by introducing smart plugs that can actively track energy consumption and other IoT technologies to make their buildings smarter.
Wiring up with Honeywell
Just this week, US tech firm Honeywell’s and its partners electrical wiring company MK Electric and Trend Controls launched a commercial solution for effective remote monitoring and control of plug-in sources for buildings in the UK.
The collaboration, named Connected Power, has been created to easily allow building and energy managers to monitor their site’s use of plugged-in electronics, also known as small power.
While plug loads take up energy 24/7, the partnership saw that these electronics only really need to be on when needed, but manually managing an entire building is not so easy.
Connected Power uses smart plug sockets that can be linked to an app and online dashboards to allow building managers to remotely power down unused sockets, and automate functions such as scheduling when they turn back on. They can also alert the manager when an electronic device is using too much power.
“Connected power is made possible with two solutions,” says Honeywell offering manager Neil Brown, “the connected socket and the hub.”
“The connected socket is ideal for retrofitting,” he explains. As it fits just like any other socket, it can go in just as normal, and 50 of the sockets can create a hub. Connected Power sockets are the same size as standard plug sockets, allowing for easy retrofits. Each hub wirelessly connects to up to 50 sockets and as many as 50 hubs can feed data back to a single BMS or supervisory system, giving a total capacity of 2,500 sockets or 5,000 individual outlets.
“The impact of small power in a commercial setting can quickly add up,” explains Steve Kenny, vice president and general manager of MK Electric, “and there are often hundreds of small power devices in an office building, hospital, or educational setting that are left when not in use.”
“By working with our colleagues from the Trend team, we can better provide building and energy manager with no only insight into their small power energy use, but also allow them to control it,” Kenny added.
At the moment, Honeywell has already worked on a few case studies in schools and universities.
In one particular school, Honeywell’s dashboards showed that even during the weekends when no one was in the building, energy was still being wasted away.
To tackle this, the school turned off the appliances when they weren’t in use. So, for example, in the music rooms where many keyboards and computers are plugged in and not necessarily switched off by students, they could put a timer on the equipment – and the same for other rooms such as the kitchen and gymnasium.
After implementing the solution, the schools and universities saw a dramatic drop in energy consumption, and often it would even go to zero.
Plugging in with Shelly
Another IoT brand hoping to help businesses cut down their small power consumption is European company Shelly.
Rather than wiring in a socket, Shelly offers plug-in adapters that connect to directly the WiFi and can provide dashboards of your energy consumption.
Its main focus is to allow businesses, and homes, to optimise their energy consumption through customisable schedules, timers, and even sensors.
The dashboards can keep track of energy consumption, too, and allow monitoring and control of each device remotely.
With that, each of its devices (Shelly also sells temperature sensors to keep track of energy consumption through heating) can talk to each other through Bluetooth in order to get a full view of the building’s power usage.
Without the rewiring and being able to simply plug and play makes Shelly stand out as it believes it makes the process more economical: “At Shelly, we believe that the most advanced smart home automation technology should be available and affordable for all, making it easy to customise and automate a home or business – and save energy in the process,” said Svetlin Todorov, CEO of Allterco Robotics, Shelly’s parent company.
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