Big Savings from Proposed DOE Standards for Uninterruptible Power Supplies

Posted on July 26, 2016 by
Chris Granda

Most of the national appliance energy efficiency standards with the biggest savings cover familiar products such as water heaters and light bulbs, or big commercial energy users like roof top air conditioners. Today, DOE proposed new, first-ever standards for a less well-known product – uninterruptible power supplies or UPSs.  The surprisingly large energy and economic savings and emissions reductions from the proposed UPS rule make it the summer sleeper success story among DOE’s 2016 efficiency standards.

DOE estimates that UPSs meeting the proposed new standards would save 1.18 quadrillion BTUs over 30 years, or about 131 billion kilowatt hours, resulting in net savings for consumers of $1.87 to $4.4 billion for U.S. consumers and businesses. This reduction in energy consumption would also prevent the emission of an estimated 72 million metric tons of CO2 over the same period. To put this in perspective, this energy is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 11.6 million US homes[1], and the CO2 emissions are equivalent to what 15.2 million cars[2] in the US put out in one year. Ranked by projected energy savings, the proposed UPS standards are in the middle of the pack of the approximately fifteen new energy efficiency standards DOE is scheduled to complete this year. 

UPSs provide critical protection for some electronic devices, particularly computers, which are sensitive to power outages or fluctuations in electricity supply. A UPS provides battery backup power that instantly kicks in when power delivery from the electric utility is disrupted, allowing a computer to be shut down normally without losing data. Some kinds of UPSs also condition incoming power to regulate current voltage and/or frequency. UPSs are commonly installed with desktop computers (laptops usually have their own batteries built in) in both residential and commercial applications.

DOE originally proposed standards for UPSs as part of its 2012 proposed rule covering a wide range of battery charger products. However, DOE later determined that a new test method for measuring UPS efficiency was needed. The final battery charger standards rule published in June left out UPSs because the new test method was not yet ready. DOE proposed a UPS test procedure earlier this summer, which enabled DOE to move forward with today’s proposed standards and plug the significant “UPS gap” in the battery charger standards issued in June.

DOE is scheduled to publish a final rule for UPS later this year and the new standards would come into effect three years after publication.

[1] 11,320 kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity in 2009. DOE Residential Energy Consumption Survey

[2] 4.73 metric tons CO2E /vehicle/year from EPA GHG equivalency calculator