Rising energy costs and environmental concerns put factory managers under constant pressure to optimise their facility’s energy performance. This doesn’t need to be a daunting task.
A good starting point is an analysis of the factory’s energy use graphs based on half-hourly meter readings, which most suppliers of industrial electricity will provide on request. Looking at the patterns in the factory’s energy consumption and analysing how they match the activities being carried out in the plant at the time can reveal easy paths to lower energy use. In most cases some minor changes to operating procedures or staff culture, such as encouraging employees to switch equipment off when leaving, can result in significant savings.
When analysing how the factory works to find ideas to save electricity, there are three main directions you can take:
- Optimise the use of resources - The lighting system offers great opportunities for savings: adopting the latest high efficiency fluorescent tubes and installing occupancy detection and variable output systems, will ensure that only occupied areas are lit and light levels exactly match what is required by the activities in each specific area. No energy is wasted lighting empty areas or providing more light than is necessary.
- Eliminate waste - Small inefficiencies can result in energy waste that can build up unnoticed. For example, it isn’t uncommon for leaks in flexible air lines and fittings to be seen as the norm and left for extended periods of time. Fixing these leaks reduces the running hours of compressors, cutting energy use and lengthening the life of the machines. A weekly audit at the end of the day can allow you to find them and fix them quickly, minimising energy waste. As you analyse the workings of your facility, you can further improve its energy performance by identifying and fixing similar inefficiencies that at first sight appear insignificant but can result in a build-up of unnecessary electricity use.
- Reuse waste - Is there any waste that you could use to reduce your facility’s energy requirements? For example, in winter you could reclaim excess heat at high levels and recirculate it at ground level, reducing load on space heaters, so you would need fewer. This can be achieved with destratification fans or by fitting recirculation modules on roof mounted air inlet systems.
Looking at your factory’s operation with a fresh eye and getting a better understanding of how it works can put your facility on the path to significant energy savings – often just by making a few small changes in the way you do things.
Paul Langford is an Engineering Director with experience in product development, manufacturing and testing for HVAC, solar shading, louvre systems and smoke control applications.