Finding ways to save energy in your manufacturing plant can save your business thousands of dollars.
Imagine how different your next annual report would look if you could make a deep slash in your facility’s operating costs. You could ramp up production, hire more staff, invest in newer technology and equipment — the benefits are endless.
Below, we’ve compiled our top energy-saving tips for manufacturing plants into two main strategies: reducing energy consumption and optimizing energy usage.
Strategy #1: Reduce energy consumption
Decreasing the amount of lost energy in your electrical systems is key to cutting energy consumption. Your largest savings can come from identifying equipment that’s using more electricity than necessary.
This energy waste often occurs in the form of heat. Whenever a machine is giving off excess heat, there’s an opportunity for increased energy efficiency.
1. Use energy-efficient products like LEDs.
Traditional incandescent and HID lamps produce a significant amount of waste heat. You can observe this simply by holding your hand near an incandescent light source. The lamp feels warm because it’s emitting a large portion of its electricity as wasted heat.
LEDs, on the other hand, consume up to 80% less energy and are up to 90% more efficient. LEDs can use light and energy more efficiently because they are a directional light source. Visible light is directed where needed and heat management is directed via rear mounted heat sinks, whereas incandescent light and heat is emitted in all directions.
This saves you money in two ways: first, you’ll require less electricity to keep the lights on. Second, since LEDs radiate less heat, your air conditioning system won’t have to work as hard.
If your industrial facility is outfitted with traditional light fixtures, converting or retrofitting to LED lights can provide major energy and cost savings within one to two years.
2. Maintain and repair equipment regularly.
Another cause of waste heat is improperly maintained equipment. For example, motors often run hot due to insufficient lubrication, alignment issues and other problems.
For this reason, it’s important to have a proactive maintenance strategy. Install condition-monitoring sensors to detect when a machine is using more energy than usual and alert you when repair is needed.
You can also use predictive maintenance tools to anticipate when maintenance will be needed, which gives you time to plan for repairs.
3. Reduce the impact of harmonic currents.
Harmonic distortion in electrical systems causes energy loss, and in some cases, overheating. To measure the total harmonic distortion present in a system, use monitoring devices regularly.
Once you’ve identified which machines are affected, you can make modifications to compensate for harmonics. Increasing the size of neutral conductors is a well-documented strategy for mitigating the effects of harmonics. You can also use separate neutral conductors for each phase conductor to increase the harmonic load capacity of three-phase branch circuits.
4. Install variable frequency drives to supply the correct voltage and reduce current consumption.
In a three-phase system, voltage imbalance at the motor stator terminals can cause phase current imbalance — up to 10 times as large as the voltage imbalance.
This leads to torque pulsations, increased vibration stress, mechanical stress and motor overheating. All these domino effects require extra energy, so it’s important to divide loads equally, test voltage regularly and install protective devices.
Variable frequency drives (VFDs) can bring you significant energy savings by controlling the amount of current supplied to an electric motor. Centrifugal equipment such as fans, pumps and compressors are prime candidates for VFDs.
Load studies can reveal these opportunities for increasing energy efficiency. Conduct a 30-day load study and record maximum electricity demand.
5. Check for air compressor leaks.
According to the Compressed Air and Gas Institute, improperly maintained air compressors cause up to $3.2 billion in wasted energy costs annually in the United States.
But if you don’t have an effective method for pinpointing leaks, improving the efficiency of your compressors can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. This was the challenge that one of our customers faced.
So, one of our account managers introduced them to the Fluke ii900 Sonic Imager, a tool specifically designed to detect air and vacuum leaks. With the new imager, this customer was able to find at least 24 leaks — saving them $90,000 in energy costs annually.
6. Install waste heat recovery systems.
If you can’t reduce waste heat, you can reuse it. Waste heat recovery systems allow you to capture excess heat from process heating and reuse it for cogeneration. They’re also a tangible way to reduce pollution, which helps with environmental sustainability efforts.
This form of cogeneration can be costly, though, so you’ll need to consider the scale of your facility to determine its value.
Strategy #2: Optimize energy usage patterns
Next, you can save energy at your manufacturing facility simply by adjusting and automating the timing of usage.
1. Use lighting controls
If you’re retrofitting your manufacturing plant with LEDs to save energy, it’s also a good idea to invest in lighting controls.
Lighting controls reduce energy consumption by dimming or turning off the luminaire when it’s not needed. Occupancy or vacancy sensing controls use vibration and infrared sensors to detect when people are in the room. This is perfect for office areas of the building as well as warehouse high bay aisle areas that are not occupied.
For exterior areas of your facility such as parking lots, loading docks, courtyards, you can set lights on a time schedule and enable dimming via motion sensors. With a combination of wired and wireless controls, you can monitor and adjust energy usage throughout the building.
Integral lighting controls are available on almost all interior and exterior luminaires. A build or campus-wide lighting control system can be implemented.
2. Plan your energy usage at off-peak times
If your electric utility uses time-of-use pricing, the cost of electricity can vary depending on the time of day. Planning your facility’s schedule around the peak hours when electricity is most expensive can save you money.
If possible, shut down your equipment during peak hours. Determine which machines require the most energy to operate and avoid using them during peak periods. Keep in mind that starting up equipment can create abrupt increases in energy usage, too.
Final Tip: Complete a lighting and energy audit
For the most efficient use of energy and your time, you can work with a lighting and energy solutions specialist to complete an energy audit.
A walk-through audit can reveal potential energy savings in places where you least expect them. Additionally, your local BSE Account Manager or Lighting Specialist can help you identify utility company rebate programs in your area for even more financial savings.
Contact a Border States Account Manager at a branch near you to learn more about lighting and energy audits.