By Robert Holdsworth, President
Energy Edge Solutions
The industrial sector of the US economy consumes approximately 33% of all energy used in the United States. As energy costs continue to increase businesses have discovered the tremendous financial, operational and competitive value of energy cost reduction and improved energy efficiency.
Experience has shown that manufacturing facilities of all types and sizes have the potential for energy savings leading to greater profit and productivity gains. More than 65% of industrial electrical energy is consumed by motors, followed by HVAC and lighting. By focusing on these key areas companies can significantly improve energy efficiency for their plants while maintaining or improving production and employee comfort.
Because each industrial facility is unique to some degree, using a carefully planned “whole facility” approach, allows you to feel confident that you are making the best, most financially and operationally prudent energy efficiency choices. You will find that there are proven and recommended engineering approaches and technologies available that can guarantee results. And by working with an experienced, energy services company or engineering firm, choosing the right options does not need to be complicated.
Deciding where and how to begin is fairly straightforward. The best first step is always to focus on quick, low cost or no cost solutions first. These can include training staff to turn lights off when they leave unoccupied rooms, using sleep mode settings for computers and other electronics when not in use, setting back thermostats during non-occupied hours, scheduling routine maintenance for production equipment, selecting appropriately sized motors, fixing leaks in compressor systems, and having the HVAC systems serviced and cleaned on a regular basis.
After you’ve addressed these “low hanging fruit” options, next steps can involve choosing from a variety of longer term options that are designed to deliver much greater energy savings. Options should be considered based on their proven track record of success in industrial facilities, whether they are “approved” or “recommended” by organizations such as Energy Star, US DOE, USGBC, IEEE, etc., their cost effectiveness and return on investment as well as their consistency with your company’s goals and culture.
Some of the best options for industrial facilities include lighting upgrades from HID lighting and antiquated fluorescent to high efficiency fluorescent, CFL and/ or LED, use of occupancy sensors and day-lighting opportunities, sine wave modification for outdoor lighting circuits, liquid pressure amplification for central chiller plants, anti-compressor short cycling for roof top units, use of variable frequency drives on variable torque loads, use of high efficiency transformers and possibly equipment replacement for older systems that are approaching the end of their useful life.
As you proceed, know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are experienced firms who can help make recommendations and provide turnkey services for you. In choosing a partner to guide this type of “whole facility” approach for you, it is important to look at a number of factors. You may want to ask the following: What is their level of experience using these various technologies, do they use proven and recommended approaches, what are the credentials of their staff, are they members of key industry organizations, what is their level of knowledge of your industry, do they offer a free initial evaluation and do they offer guarantees at each step of their process.
And remember that the sooner you begin, the sooner your organization’s limited resources and profits are preserved!