Soaring energy bills are a great incentive for optimising our factories’ energy performance, and this may not be as difficult as you think. Looking at the day-to-day running of your factory with a fresh eye, challenging habits you and your staff may have gradually fallen into over the years can yield unexpected results.
We did this recently at our factory in Havant and as a result our electricity bills are much improved! For example, we looked at our energy use figures during shut downs and noticed that at nights and week-ends we were exceeding this base line consumption. We went looking for what we were doing differently and found that office equipment and compressors were often left on. We made our employees aware of the difference they could make simply by switching them off at the end of the day and as a result our energy consumption has gone down.
Here are a few ways you can look at your energy consumption, understand how your building really works and find ideas to save electricity:
1. Analyse your energy use graphs:
Most suppliers of industrial electricity will provide half-hourly meter readings if requested. This information can be used to review the underlying power consumption of your factory operation. Some fairly minor changes to current operating procedures or staff culture can provide worthwhile savings.
2. Optimise lighting:
Replacing the factory lighting system to one that uses the latest high efficiency fluorescent tubes combined with occupancy detection and variable output can offer very short payback periods. Only lighting occupied areas and ensuring that light levels are controlled to exactly what is required by the activities in that area reduces energy consumption.
3. Fix leaks in air lines:
Flexible air lines and fittings can be a source of leaks. It isn't uncommon for these leaks to be seen as the norm and so go unfixed for extended periods of time. A weekly audit, perhaps at the end of the day when operations have ceased, can highlight these. Taking action to fix leaks reduces the running hours of the compressors, saving electricity and extending the life of the machines.
4. Reuse waste heat:
In winter the use of destratification fans to reclaim heat at high levels can reduce load on space heaters, meaning either fewer need to run or running hours are reduced. This can also be achieved by fitting re-circulation modules on roof mounted air inlet systems.
5. Generate energy with solar panels:
Factories, by definition, tend to have large roofs and even if not south facing could provide a suitable site for the installation of solar panels. The government has defined set feed-in tariffs for solar power so that you can calculate the income to your business for a period of up to 25 years. Even if the proposed cut in feed-in tariffs for systems over 50kW goes ahead, the return on investment is worthwhile given the current interest rates.
Have you carried out a similar review of energy consumption at your factory? Do you have other suggestions for optimising a factory’s energy performance? Why not add your ideas in a comment to this blog post?
Paul Langford is an Engineering Director with experience in product development, manufacturing and testing for HVAC, solar shading, louvre systems and smoke control applications.