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Understanding AlwaysON energy consumption

Definition


AlwaysON (AON) consumption corresponds to the energy consumed within a residence because of appliances that are continuously consuming energy or while they are switched OFF or set in StandBy mode. Surprisingly, a lot of appliances, whatever status they want you to think they’re in, ultimately they’re ON, they add to the electric bill without any practical reason and cost the end consumers money. There are other terms being used for that, such as phantom load, base load, leaking electricity or standby power but the term AlwaysON prevailed in most of the relevant studies and literature. Attempting a different interpretation, AON is actually the minimum amount of energy a house consumes at any time.


The following list outlines all different modes in which appliances can be set and measured. It is difficult to assign measurement modes to all appliance types, as product design plays a significant role in which modes can an electrical unit be set. More specifically, this depends heavily on the functions that are present and active in each appliance, which are not always obvious to the user.


In Use - ΟΝ Mode: The product is performing its primary function. This includes battery charging functions, data downloading etc.


Active StandBy Mode: Active StandBy is when an appliance is on, but not performing its main function. For example, a DVD player may be ΟΝ but is not playing a disc. This mode is usually only present in devices (a) where there is a mechanical function which is not active (e.g. DVD drive or motor) but power circuits are ON, or (b) where a device is in a quiescent power state (audio amplifier with no audio signal).


Passive StandBy Mode: Passive StandBy is when an appliance is not performing its main function but is ready to be switched ON (in most cases with a remote control) or is performing some secondary display function (e.g. has a display or clock which is activated in this mode).


OFF Mode: OFF mode can only be entered if the appliance has a usable power switch. In this mode, an appliance is connected to a power source but does not produce sound or picture, transmit or receive information or is waiting to be switched ON by the user. If the appliance has a remote control, it cannot be woken by this in OFF mode – i.e. it can only be activated via the power switch on the appliance.


Contribution


According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the US, AlwaysON consumption refers to almost a quarter of the residential sector’s total electricity consumption, or in other words approximately 150 Euros per household per year [NRDC]. On top of that, 50 (!) appliances are roughly expected to be part of the AlwaysON consumption in a regular house [NY].


At NET2GRID, we are currently active in 10 EU countries and Australia with our real-time Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring (NILM) services and we are reporting on a daily basis AlwaysON consumption results per house. We did a similar investigation, simply to confirm that approximately more than 20% of the total electricity consumption is indeed wasted for no practical reason. The average house has an AlwaysON consumption that varies between 120 and 180 Watts, respectively.

NET2GRID Ynni app showing various household AlwaysON category numbers


We also managed to isolate a small but non-negligible percentage of houses (2%) that constantly consumed more than 350 Watts, or in other words more than 8 kWh per day.


AlwaysON Examples


We have gathered a few example figures of AlwaysON (from really low to extremely high) and we tried to correlate their consumption to other appliance end-uses or activities.


  • AlwaysON consumption < 100 Watt

  • Approx. 2 kWh/day

  • Or equally 60 kWh/month

  • Equal to 60 dishwasher events

  • AON price can be 10-15 Euros/month

  • Extremely energy efficient

  • Low potential for AON savings





  • AlwaysON consumption ~ 250 Watt

  • Approx. 6 kWh/day

  • Or equally almost 180 kWh/month

  • Equal to almost 300 (!) washing machine events

  • AON price can be 35+ Euros/month

  • Not that energy efficient

  • Good potential for AON savings





  • AlwaysON consumption ~ 450 Watt

  • Approx. 10.5 kWh/day

  • Or equally more than 300 kWh/month

  • Equal to the monthly consumption of an average Tesla S owner (!)

  • AON price can be 60+ Euros/month

  • Very bad in terms of efficiency

  • Great potential for AON savings





AlwaysON Monitoring Over Time


We did an experiment with one of our customers in Europe and we worked with a subset of 500 houses for the second half of 2019, i.e. July 2019 until December 2019. This group of 500 end users joined NET2GRID’s services in July 2019 when they suddenly realised that their AlwaysON consumption as a percentage was on average 25% of their total electricity consumption. Six months later the AlwaysON percentage has been reduced by 3.2%, while their total electricity consumption remained the same coming as a proof that there is a huge energy savings’ potential hidden behind the AlwaysON mystery.

AlwaysON consumption has been reduced in 6 months by 3.2% with a 500 end users sample group


The following 2 figures are actually really representative of an end user changing his behavior after realising AlwaysON impact. He reduced his AlwaysON consumption from 220 Watts to 120 Watts while it’s obvious that the house is still very active. This end user can benefit from a reduction in his monthly electricity bill that can be even more than 15 Euros.

AlwaysON consumption dropped from 220 Watts to 120 Watts


Business Case


A few years back there was a study published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for the US Department of Energy [PNNL] discussing the business case for NILM. In that document annual expected savings were predicted to be in the range of 3.8% - 8.4% in case of indirect feedback and up to 12% in case of direct feedback that is provided real-time.


From our experience so far, NILM and a daily consumption breakdown report is a unique piece of information for the end users that reveals to them how, when and for which activities they consume electricity. That information alone though is not often translated into actions that increase energy efficiency or in other words reduce consumption. On one hand, end users realise what are the main reasons behind their electricity bill but on the other hand that does not mean that they will stop using their washing machine or their oven. That can change though if they are willing to participate in a demand response (automated or behavioral) program, given of course the necessary financial incentives, or if we can help them to stop wasting energy for something that is of no use, i.e. the AlwaysON consumption. What is impressive with the second option is the opportunity to reduce energy consumption without having to curtail or shift any activities in a regular house, simply because AON is not actually energy used for a specific reason. Reducing electricity consumption is easier to come from AON reduction rather than from other activities that are important for residents. To that end, an accurate NILM solution will:

  1. Let people understand what (and how impactful) AON consumption is

  2. Assist by providing them with insights and tips on how to reduce AON consumption

According to our investigations so far, a reasonable target will be to reduce AlwaysON by 40% or in other words reduce the total household’s consumption by approximately 8-9%.


AlwaysON Breakdown


What can be a game-change in this direction is an even deeper understanding not only of what AlwaysON refers to but of what AlwaysON consists of. To this end, NET2GRID proceeds with a NILM analysis that is one step deeper and provides end consumers with an AlwaysON breakdown service. Electricity consumers are receiving, on a daily basis, an AlwaysON report that further unfolds in smaller parts/categories. That actually happens by taking into account the end users’ profile information reported via the Ynni mobile app or our API.


NET2GRID Ynni app showing your households' AlwaysON breakdown


As we can see in the figure above, AlwaysON consumption is broken down into the following categories: laundry appliances, kitchen appliances, space heating/cooling appliances, computer & peripherals, home entertainment and miscellaneous. The convenient thing is that the greatest part of the AON consumption is in most households the computer & peripherals and home entertainment appliances and that can be easily reduced or even eliminated by using a power strip with switches [strip].


How to save energy without making any sacrifices to my lifestyle?


There are some golden rules when it comes to reducing AlwaysON consumption. Devices with programmable controllers or appliances that need a remote are drawing power. Luckily, most of them are aimed at activities related to i) entertainment and ii) home-office, so are expected to be located in the same room or even place in a house. Plugging them in groups with power strips that can be switched ON/OFF allow for reducing AlwaysON consumption simply with one action. Moreover, end-users when selecting new appliances for their homes can also take into account - apart from energy labels - the StandBy consumption as well.

To sum up, what is more important is first to realise the impact of AlwaysON on the final electricity bill and then each one can find ways to reduce it.




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