Energy costs can be significant expenses for manufacturers of all shapes and sizes. Your processes may require vast amounts of energy to keep production moving — heating, cooling, lighting and more. Scaling back your energy expenses can improve your bottom line and lead to increased profitability. If you do not have a strategic plan to conserve energy, it is time for action.
An energy audit is vital to identifying opportunities for improvement. During this process, your lighting systems, HVAC and production line equipment are inspected and evaluated. Some manufacturers form an internal team to conduct the assessment, but if you do not have team members who can manage the process, you may want to consider enlisting the assistance of energy experts. Whichever route you choose, here are some tips on how manufacturers can reduce energy costs:
1. Evaluate Compressed Air Systems For Leaks
Leaks can be a major source of wasted energy, and correcting them can help you realize significant immediate savings. Reports indicate that leaks can lead to a 20 to 30 percent loss of a compressor’s output. They can also diminish the effectiveness of your equipment.
There are various ways to determine if you have leaks in your system like undertaking an air leak survey. Ultrasonic detection equipment is available for finding smaller leaks as well. Common causes for leaks include missing seals or welds, loose tubes and hoses and worn materials. Depending on the cause, rectifying leaks may be as simple as tightening up fittings or replacing minor parts.
2. Upgrade Your Equipment
Keeping your equipment in good working condition is vital to becoming more energy efficient. Retro-commissioning systematically looks for equipment in your facility operating below optimal standards. Retro-fitting involves replacing outdated or inefficient equipment.
But do not just associate this with major pieces of equipment in your facility. Realistically, a new HVAC system may just be out of the question. However, savings from upgrading aging equipment to include ceiling fans, motors and computers can add up in the long run. Implement a schedule for evaluating and maintaining all your equipment — not just the main ones.
3. Install Energy-Efficient Lighting
Manufacturing facilities need to be well-lit, so it’s critical that energy-efficient lighting is properly installed. Industrial compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can help businesses use less energy.
Another consideration is to turn off or remove lights in non-essential areas. For example, many manufacturers have vending machines in their facilities. Placing vending machines in well-lit areas, but removing their individual light bulbs can help you reduce some of your electrical usage.
4. Power Down your Equipment
Virtually every piece of technology in your facility runs on electricity. Shutting down equipment at the end of the day seems to be a no brainer, but it can be overlooked. When your employees are not in their offices, whether it is overnight or for an extended vacation, remind them to shut down their computers and other equipment, or place them into sleep mode. And if you have networked computers, your administrator might be able to adjust power settings for more efficient usage.
The savings do add up. For example, if it costs you 12 cents per kWh, reducing 2,400 kWh a month by turning things off would help you save at least $3,400 annually. You can use this to invest in more equipment upgrades, leading to even more energy savings.
5. Improve Process Heating
Process heating is required to make most consumer and industrial goods, and it can be responsible for more than one-third of a facility’s energy usage. Manufacturers can save energy within this area by installing waste heat recovery systems, leveraging alternative fuels with higher combustion efficiency, installing automatic blowdown control systems, affirming proper furnace installation and controlling exhaust gases.
6. Take Advantage Of Consumption Periods
Determine when the most energy is used during the day, and evaluate which processes consume the greatest amount of energy. Is there room for change? Electrical rates can vary depending on the timing of energy consumption, allowing businesses to strategically adjust their operating hours accordingly. If possible, avoid “peak period rates,” which usually occur in the afternoon and early evening hours.
7. Secure Employee Buy-In
Conservation efforts will not be successful unless your employees are on board. Communicate and emphasize the importance of reducing energy consumption, and put it in terms of how savings can benefit the workplace. Which is more effective?
“Don’t forget to turn off your equipment.”
“If we reduce energy costs, we may have enough savings to invest in a new piece of equipment to make your job easier. We cannot do this without you.”
Getting your staff involved will also empower them to develop new ideas. By implementing a more effective energy strategy for your business, you can begin to reduce your energy consumption and expenses.
Brian Lagas manages NIST MEP's Sustainability, Continuous Improvement and Export initiatives. This blog originally appeard on Manufacturing Innovation here.