Power Up an Energy-Saving Program

Aug. 12, 2009
Five simple steps is all it takes.

Many shops are missing the chance to reduce their energy consumption costs significantly. They commonly overlook areas of potential energy savings and, in doing so, cheat themselves out of keeping as much as 30 percent of their current energy costs in their pockets.

According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), shops can achieve savings year after year by taking steps to identify overlooked areas of potential savings and by establishing an energymanagement strategy. To help, Energy Star offers five simple steps based on lessons learned from its partners who use them, and who have developed their own long-term energy management strategies.

The first step to reducing energy costs is assessing a facility’s energy use and setting savings goals. Energy Star said that managing energy consumption is difficult if a shop is not measuring its use. It also makes it tough to determine a reasonable energy-saving goal.

Energy Star recommends using a comparative reference point from an energy performance rating system to assess a facility’s current energy performance. One rating method is the EPA’s National Energy Performance Rating System, a free online tool that provides a simple 1-to-100 scale for scoring many types of buildings. Also, some industries have already established their own plant energy benchmarking systems. And, as far as setting an appropriate energy saving goal, the EPA suggests setting one that is simple, like 10 percent, just to get started.

As an example, 3M established a corporate goal of reducing energy by 20 percent between 2000 and 2005. By 2005, the company improved energy productivity by 35 percent, which translated into a cost savings of $190 million.

Step two on the road to saving energy is improving common plant/shop systems. Why? Because the U.S. DOE estimates that these common systems consume 80 percent of all industrial energy, and the department said that it is possible to reduce the amount of energy these systems use by 10 to 20 percent. Common plant systems to focus on include motors, compressed air, steam generation, process heating and combustion.

To uncover opportunities with common systems, Energy Star made these recommendations:

• Evaluate operating practices for waste, unnecessary use, or misuse.
• Operate systems as they were designed and commissioned.
• Maintain the systems to reduce losses. Increase insulation where possible. Keep all systems in good working order.
• Size systems for your needs and adjust them as needs change.
• Recover heat from systems, where possible.

As an example of some specific opportunities, Energy Star cited that, for motors, shops should institute a corporate motor-replacement policy and specify only NEMA Premium motors. For compressed air, shops need to eliminate leaks and inappropriate use, and to verify/reduce system pressure. For steam systems, it said to maintain steam traps, eliminate leaks, insulate and tune up boilers regularly.

Energy Star’s third step to reducing energy consumption is quite simple – turn off what is not needed. Its partner companies reported that equipment kept on and running during non-production periods was a main waste of energy and one that can be easily adjusted.

Shops need to conduct walk-throughs when the facility is down for maintenance or for night, vacation or holiday shutdowns, to study exactly what is running during these times and what can be shut off. All energy-using applications (lighting, motors, etc.) should be considered for possible shutdown. This walk-through information is what forms the basis for a “shut-down” list.

Plant and floor managers then review the walk-through findings to help establish shut-down procedures that can be implemented by everyone in the facility. And there should be periodic inspections to ensure adherence to shut-down procedures.

Getting employees involved is the fourth step in Energy Star’s recommendations for a plan to reduce energy consumption. Employee behavior impacts energy use because they strongly influence the amount of power required to run equipment, light spaces, etc.

However, Energy Star said that when informed about the need to save energy and how to do it, generally, employees want to help. Promoting energy awareness among employees can provide quick, positive returns for a small, upfront cost.

At 3M, the company holds Energy Awareness Month activities for all employees and uses its 3M TV to regularly broadcast the importance of energy management. Another company, Raytheon, also uses an energy awareness month not only to increase energy awareness among its employees, but also to teach them about energy savings that can be found in their homes.

To keep employees involved, Energy Star suggests:

• Holding special staff meetings at the beginning of seasons to review basic energy-saving behaviors.
• Educating employees on facility energy use and costs.
• Soliciting ideas for energy-reduction projects from employees.
• Making employees aware of their responsibilities to manage energy, such as turning equipment off when not in use, keeping doors closed to avoid heat or cooling loss, and avoiding improper use of equipment.
• Using monitor power-management techniques to ensure computer monitors and computers are placed into sleep mode or turned off after periods of inactivity.
• Encouraging procurement personnel and employees to purchase Energy Star products where applicable.

In some industries, lighting consumes a substantial amount of energy, which is why it’s a focus of Energy Star’s recommendations for reducing energy consumption. They recommend that shops look carefully at current lighting systems for efficiency, levels, and controls, and consider upgrading equipment. And shops should perform regular maintenance and make sure lights are turned off when not in use.

In addition, with today’s technology, it is often cost-effective to replace older lighting systems, and save 30 percent or more on lighting expenses. More efficient lighting also reduces the heat load of a facility, which reduces the need for air conditioning.

Energy Star lists the following tips concerning lighting:

• Review when and why lights are currently left on to see if there are opportunities to turn them off.
• Maximize the use of task lighting.
• Examine the opportunity for occupancy sensors.
• Replace older fluorescent lighting with T8s and consider using fluorescent lighting in high bay applications. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
• Implement a regular light-maintenance schedule to replace all bulbs at one time when they are at an estimated 70 percent of their lives. This reduces lighting maintenance costs by more than 25 percent, allows for greater bulk purchasing discounts, and ensures more even light levels.
• Make sure outdoor lighting is not being used during daylight hours.
• Integrating sensors and the right amount of lighting into an overall security plan offers a better solution than lighting all indoor fixtures during nights and weekends.
• Use natural daylight where possible.