Published July 1, 2023
Effective September 1, 2023
Plug Loads and Appliances is centered on consumer or light-commercial appliances and other miscellaneous plug loads which includes Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), common household appliances, medical equipment, and light-duty battery-powered equipment.
CalNEXT is interested in how to effectively deploy high-efficiency electric cooktops and high-efficiency electric clothes dryers in a market that is dominated by natural gas cooktops and clothes dryers. In addition, EVSEs continue to be a focus of the emerging technology program due to the enormity of expected load growth in the coming years. CalNEXT is now focused on how to best limit idling power use of these devices, how to best remove electrical infrastructure barriers, and how to educate, navigate, and funnel end-users into demand response programs.
Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is defined as the conductors, connectors, related equipment, and control software that deliver energy to an electric vehicle (EV). This technology family has strong overlaps with the Electrical Infrastructure technology family within the Whole Building TPM.
Note: A number of mobile battery charging applications exist outside of traditional passenger vehicles and are covered in separate technology families within the Plug Load and Process Loads TPMs. These include applications such as e-bikes, motorized wheelchairs, forklifts, and golf carts.
AC Level 1 chargers; AC Level 2 chargers; DC chargers; bi-directional chargers; local load management technologies; chargers with integral communication functions; utility pricing signals for EVSE; charging connector standardization.
Electrified transportation is expected to be the major driver of load growth within California and EVSE are a key enabling technology to unlock decarbonization of this end use. California Energy Commission’s (CEC’s) latest Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) projects that by 2030 electrical consumption from transportation will make up more than 20 Terawatt hours (TWh) or 6.7% of all electrical consumption. Given the rapid deployment in progress, it is crucial for state energy goals to ensure that EVSE are functioning with energy efficiency and demand flexibility in mind. To that end, products must limit standby energy usage and ensure that demand flexibility is incorporated into EVSE. While there currently are no energy efficiency standards for EVSE, ENERGY STAR® has been taking a lead role in developing voluntary standards for the critical features that are immediately needed such as idle power mode limits, criteria for grid-connected functionality, and communication with the EV itself.
While EVSEs are relatively new, understanding of technical performance is well-understood especially for Level 1 and Level 2 equipment. Market understanding is growing, although as EVs reach mass market end-users, there is need for both broad and specialized consumer education to help end-users navigate the complexities of: (1) installing efficient EVSE, (2) limiting need for expensive panel upgrades, and (3) enrolling and educating users in flexible demand programs.
This technology family focuses on the replacement of gas-powered appliances used in housekeeping tasks (white goods) such as cooking and clothes drying with electric ones. Products include cooking ranges, cooktops, ovens, and clothes dryers. This technology family has strong overlaps with the Electrical Infrastructure technology family within the Whole Buildings TPM.
Induction cooktops (residential); all-electric ranges & ovens (residential); low-voltage clothes dryers (residential).
In California, most households use gas-powered white goods for cooking and clothes drying, creating a huge opportunity for electrification.
A report by San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) determined that, “Gas appliances in California homes and buildings generate four times as much lung-damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution as the state’s gas power plants, and roughly two thirds as much NOx as all of the state’s passenger cars.” While the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has moved to ban the sale of new gas space and water heaters by 2030, gas-powered white goods are not yet being phased out on a large scale. A recent study on gas stoves found that even when they are off, they are emitting dangerous air pollutants. There is an opportunity to accelerate the decarbonization of household appliances and prime the market for future regulation. Aside from the decarbonization benefits from fuel switching, both dryers and cooktops have significant energy savings opportunities. ENERGY STAR® estimates that conventional gas cooktops are approximately 32% efficient compared to 75-80% for electric resistance and 85% for induction.
Prospective research should focus on behavioral interventions and technologies to break down fuel-switching barriers. These include the marketing challenges for electric cooktops, avoiding the need for electrical upgrades through the deployment of 110V clothes dryer products and combination washer/dryers, and other solutions to reduce barriers to electrification. Research should also focus on the unique challenges and opportunities in low income and multifamily buildings, where commercial laundry is used, apartments often have limited electrical capacity, and high-end electrical appliances such as induction cooktops and heat pump dryers may not be the most suitable option.
Despite the status as a mature product area, knowledge of technical performance lags other large household appliances. As of January 2023, neither ovens nor commercial clothes dryers have national standards nor approved test procedures. ENERGY STAR® has only recently taken action to establish voluntary standards for electric cooktops and DOE is in the process of setting performance standards for electric and gas cooktops.
Despite the large savings opportunities, significant deployment barriers exist from basic consumer understanding of induction cooking as well as quality concerns around heat pump dryers. Existing electric panel constraints are also a potentially large barrier where these products compete with other electrification opportunities. This is particularly stark in multifamily buildings. Given the significant barriers, CalNEXT research should focus on additional program interventions that can help consumers effectively navigate decarbonization efforts.
Large and small appliances that aid in routine home keeping and housework that are powered exclusively by electricity and without a battery. They can be located within the home, in multi-family buildings, or light commercial settings.
Note: products that commonly use gas such as clothes dryers, ovens, cooktops, and ranges are covered in a separate plug load technology family to focus on the unique challenges for decarbonization.
Refrigerators and freezers; beverage coolers; residential and commercial clothes washers; dishwashers; air cleaners; counter-top cooking appliances (microwaves, coffee makers, air fryers, etc.), heat pump clothes dryers, residential kitchen hoods, commercial clothes dryers.
These products are technologically mature with effective energy and water standards implemented at a national level for products including refrigerators, beverage coolers, residential clothes washers, and dishwashers. As such there are limited impacts, with the exception of dishwashers where access has lagged, and traditional handwashing is significantly more energy- and water-intensive. In the latest California Statewide Residential Appliance Saturation Study (RASS) homeowners reported high penetration rates at 81% while only 51% of renters reported having a dishwasher. Of those who do own a dishwasher, 21% of homeowners and 34% renters respectively report not using their appliance.
Outside of products with national standards, research to develop representative test procedures or demonstrate novel technologies in support of deployment of new standards remains an opportunity for energy savings impacts for products such as large commercial clothes washers, where DOE could increase the capacity limit to 8.0 cubic feet to match the residential limit. In 2022 DOE determined that air cleaners qualify as a covered product and estimated average household energy use at greater than 100 annual kilowatt-hour (kWh). Commercial clothes dryers are an unregulated product with significant market potential and are one of the last “big” white goods products left to regulate. Regulating commercial clothes dryers will generate natural gas and electricity savings, greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and downstream impacts for low income and disadvantaged communities.
Technical understanding of products in this family is well known and while market knowledge around consumer purchasing behavior is known, the actual use of these products is not well understood. The utilities codes & standards teams have been active in regulatory rulemakings to push higher standards, but innovative program designs focused on consumer education for household appliances may provide significant savings of energy and water. Increasing the DOE capacity limit for commercial clothes washers will require working closely with manufacturers as the test burden would increase but should not require new test equipment or lab facilities.
Devices used within homes and offices to provide and access local and wide area networks, allow computing, establish security networks, and provide entertainment.
Home entertainment equipment; Televisions; set-top boxes; gaming consoles; audio equipment; office equipment; computers; monitors; networking equipment; imaging equipment; security equipment; cameras; servers; home and facility automation; plug-in smart home devices.
Energy consumption for many of these products has been addressed by appliance standards (televisions, computers), voluntary certifications (computers, monitors, televisions, imaging equipment, audio equipment) and industry voluntary agreements (set-top boxes, small network equipment). Energy efficiency savings may be limited to either new technological innovations such as advances for televisions and monitors, or energy savings from inactive modes, which have become more significant as many of these devices are never fully off. Emerging technology (ET) projects on inactive power can leverage and contribute data to the CEC’s ongoing proceeding on Low Power Modes.
In aggregate these devices consume significant power, but the savings per individual device are low, as is consumer awareness. Energy efficiency does not drive purchasing behavior, and efficiency programs largely ignore these devices. Customer engagement is low for features such as automatic brightness control and automatic power down that can determine power consumption. Furthermore, a number of subgroups within this technology family have short life expectancy due to new technological advancements within the subgroup, making them difficult to regulate without limiting overall performance. Energy consumption trends have been driven by customer expectations for network connectivity and availability of video and audio, and network connection often defaults to basic Wi-Fi even when data rate and latency needs allow for more efficient technologies.
This category includes the specialty medical equipment intended for elderly and people with disabilities for personal mobility or medical treatment in residential and assisted living facilities.
Note that this technology family excludes hospital-specific equipment, such as imaging equipment (CT scans, MRI, X-ray), medical-grade cold storage, and biosafety cabinets which are covered under the Process Loads TPM.
Oxygen concentrators; continuous positive airway pressure ventilators (CPAP); power wheelchairs; personal vertical transport; automated reclining chairs; circulation pumps for beds; precision heaters; emergency back-up power for medical equipment.
Medical devices in the U.S. are a growing fixture in households. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are 61 million adults with disabilities and 13.7 percent with a disability that impacts walking and climbing stairs. In addition, a 2021 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) estimates there are 2.74 million oxygen concentrators and 2.2 million CPAP ventilators. Despite the prevalence of these products, data on energy usage of medical equipment is sparse, so overall energy savings opportunities remain unclear. Many of these devices are used continuously (oxygen concentrators) while others have the potential to have high parasitic loads (such as vertical lifts), so efficiency improvements are likely to save significant amounts of energy (and be cost-effective). Demand flexibility, while technically feasible, is unlikely to have significant uptake due to concerns for safety and health impacts.
As the population ages and costs of care rise, home-based, medical equipment is likely to proliferate, including diagnostic sensors and in-home “lab tests” that to replace commercial laboratory testing and specially equipped bathrooms and automated hygiene assistance. These technologies are likely to increase energy consumption, so the goals should be to ensure efficiency and controls to switch off components when nobody is present.
Significant barriers exist for this technology family. Technical performance is not well understood as there is limited data on actual energy use of this equipment and despite the maturity of this sector, these products have been historically exempted from appliance standards. Market signals are misaligned as equipment purchasers are reimbursed by health insurance for the capital expense and end-users pay a lower electricity rate under the utility-run medical baseline program. Prospective ET studies should address (1) fundamental lack of knowledge in the technical performance in this sector followed by (2) research to improve viability of different market interventions (e.g., federal standards, state standards, voluntary standards, adjustments to the medical baseline program or other programs).
Electronic devices with onboard batteries that may be operated while plugged in but largely operated untethered via battery. Building energy use occurs while charging battery or during concurrent usage.
Note: this technology family excludes medical mobility devices which are covered under a separate technology family within the Plug Load TPM.
Mobile devices (laptops, tablets, phones); non-medical mobility devices (e-bikes, scooters); battery-powered yard equipment (mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers); miscellaneous battery-powered equipment (power tools, vacuums, drones); stand-alone rechargeable batteries; wireless charging devices.
Battery-chargers are mature technology that have become ubiquitous in our society, charging everything from billions of small devices like smartphones and electric toothbrushes to a growing number of larger devices like electric bicycles and lawn equipment. This growth is expected to continue, especially among larger battery equipment, as the CARB has recently required the use of zero-emissions landscaping equipment starting in 2024. Across all battery sizes, national efficiency standards for battery chargers have already been codified at the national level covering active mode and standby mode for all non-automotive applications and DOE has an active rulemaking to revise these standards. Meanwhile, the State of California is beginning to set flexible demand appliance standards (FDAS) under SB-49 (Skinner) which may have significant opportunities for certain applications of large battery chargers.
Wireless charging technologies have seen widespread growth in consumer electronics, however, efficiency standards for wireless charging efficiency have only recently become mandatory for wireless product testing, which represents an opportunity to research efficiency performance in this growing area. Understanding the efficiency losses of wireless charging platforms will become increasingly important as this technology expands beyond low-capacity products such as cell phones and toothbrushes to laptops and other devices. Power losses from wireless charging can increase energy consumption by 50%, so efforts should lay groundwork for efficiency standards in wireless charging.
Other ET activities should support CARBs efforts in decarbonizing lawn equipment & other similar fossil-fuel powered mobile energy products as well as efforts to embed demand-flexible capabilities into battery chargers in support of FDAS. Some battery chargers may warrant new research to inform potential applicability in evolving FDAS standards, such as large home lawn appliances with systems approaches to charging.
As battery technologies evolve, so will charging profiles and new research will be needed to ensure that the chargers are maintaining optimal battery performance while maintaining low power modes once battery charging is complete, especially for seasonal devices with larger battery storage capacity such as lawn equipment (in certain regions of the state).
The technical understanding of battery chargers is mature, with the exception of the emerging wireless charging platforms. Market incentives are not well aligned because consumer purchasing decisions are not driven by battery chargers themselves but rather by the products to be charged. The California utility programs have had limited activity in this area, with incentive activity for all-electric landscaping equipment funded by some regional air quality districts.
Components, platforms, and foundational communications protocols with the ability to communicate, coordinate, and reduce energy use of plug-in electric loads in a residential or commercial building. Devices in this cross-cutting technology family are expected to enable plug load appliances to operate at lower power modes based on either automated control or behavior modifying features.
Smart Receptacles; advanced power strips; plug load management devices; product-embedded plug load management.
Emerging technologies in the Plug Load Management Technology Family have the potential to result in significant energy savings and decarbonization benefits. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Plug and process loads (PPLs) account for 47% of U.S. commercial building energy consumption” and are expected to continue steady growth. Managing plug load operations to communicate across devices and minimize consumption when not in use may result in significant energy savings and have broad decarbonization benefits, as fossil-fuel power has contributed to just over 40% of California’s total power mix in 2021.
Prospective research should focus on: (1) deepening understanding of the energy savings potential associated with optimized plug load management; (2) demonstrating energy savings potential for learning behavior algorithms which can manage usage based on learned occupant behavior and automatic & dynamic load detection (ADLD) which identifies devices as they are plugged into a building (3) assessing the market to understand scope, availability, and cost for technologies as well as the viability to embed intelligence into the products themselves; (4) understanding consumer appetite to adopt and interact with these types of technologies, with a particular focus on the customer experience, and potential data privacy concerns.
Significant barriers must be overcome to actualize and scale plug loads management to the broader market. Technical demonstrations have been done to prove viability of certain product types, but broader opportunity will come if standardized communication protocols across different product types can be developed to allow manufacturers to embed communications and controls intelligence into their products. Until these technical and market challenges are addressed, it is unlikely traditional utility programs will be able to identify cost-effective savings outside of a couple specialized products (e.g., refrigerated vending machines and water coolers).
Please refer to the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council for a complete list of active and completed projects to ensure your project is not duplicative.