Keep energy costs from eating into your company's profits. Start by cutting energy use at your distribution facility. Use a few simple substitutions to make substantial changes in your center's energy costs.
1. Use Energy-Efficient Lighting
Energy-efficient lighting can drastically affect your energy costs. Simply by replacing conventional lighting with energy-efficient light fixtures can reduce your facility's energy bill by 50 percent. Depending on current energy use, you could quickly see a return on the cost to install the new lights.
Facility operators have a couple of energy-efficient lighting options. Fluorescent lights burn cool. The downside to these lights is their warm up time, especially when used in refrigerated facilities. But if exchanging older metal halide lights with fluorescent, you could lower energy usage by 80 percent.
High-intensity discharge — HID — lights such as metal halide require time to warm up. Turning the lights off frequently becomes inefficient with these lights. Luckily, HID lights have increased in efficiency over the last decade. A 360-watt HID bulb today produces as much light as a 400-watt bulb from 10 years ago.
LED lights are another option for your facility. These are the most energy-efficient lights available. They don't need time to reach full brightness nor do they produce heat, but they are expensive. To save money, use LED lights in refrigerated areas and fluorescent lights in other parts of the facility. Incorporating automatic sensors to turn off the lights when the room is empty also reduces energy use. These sensors work best with LED or fluorescent lights.
2. Install Insulation
In most distribution centers, the greatest amount of energy use goes toward temperature control. Adding insulation to the walls and ceiling will keep the temperature in the warehouse steadier than in an uninsulated space. You won't need to run the air conditioning or heating system as much. Programming the thermostat to maintain a constant internal temperature will also reduce energy use.
3. Keep Doors Closed
Doors allow outside air to permeate throughout the distribution center. Keep the doors closed as much as possible to maintain the comfort level inside. Select high-speed doors that open and shut faster, allowing less air inside.
Some facilities require constantly open doors. But even in these places, you can still lower energy loss by up to 80 percent with an air curtain. Additionally, air curtains keep flying insects out of the warehouse.
When installing insulation, don't forget the doors. Like the walls and ceiling, a well-insulated door will dramatically help keep temperatures stable. When the doors are closed, the insulation blocks heat transfer into or out of the warehouse. Bare metal doors will actually conduct heat to the cooler area, causing serious energy loss.
4. Use Greener Solutions
Greener equipment units operate more efficiently than their standard counterparts. When upgrading your facility, opt for the more energy efficient models of any equipment you replace. Many models now deliver the same performance for lower energy use.
Install timers and automatic controls to turn off lights and adjust the thermostat when the facility is empty. These devices remove the human element from the equation in maintaining temperature. When setting the temperature, set air conditioning a degree or two higher than you normally would. For every 1 degree increase on the thermostat, your energy savings could increase by 1 to 3 percent.
Another means of reducing energy use in cooling is by supplementing the air conditioning system with high-volume, low-speed fans. These fans move a lot more air than standard fans, reducing temperatures and moving volatile gases out of the facility. The warehouse will feel cooler for employees and be safer for them to work in.
5. Cool Off the Roof
The roof of a distribution center or warehouse can make an enormous impact on temperatures inside. Energy-efficient roofs or roof coverings prevent summer heat from negating the air conditioning or refrigeration inside. During the winter, these roofs protect the building from heat loss. Look for roofs that reflect solar radiation and bear the Energy Star logo. These criteria ensure you purchase an energy-efficient roof.
Making your facility more tightly sealed and better lit can dramatically lower the price required for operations. Lighting, temperature control and greener equipment all play roles in helping your facility save money and be more energy efficient.
Megan Ray Nichols is a STEM writer and blogger.