Four Ways Manufacturers Can Improve Energy Efficiency
January 31, 2024
Manufacturers are as unique as the products that they make. However, they all have one thing in common: they have a variety of energy-efficient opportunities and practices that can lead to lower costs.
Below are four types of equipment commonly found in manufacturing facilities that benefit from energy-efficient processes and upgrades.
- Check your lighting.
Lighting provides essential safety and comfort to employees on the manufacturing floor. While metal halides and fluorescent tubes dominated the industrial lighting market for decades, LEDs are the best replacement option. These longer-lasting bulbs and fixtures improve worker visibility and reduce maintenance time. They’re also dramatically more cost-effective.
When upgrading to LEDs, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to match your lumen output to what is printed on your older bulbs. Instead, focus on matching (or exceeding) your current light levels. Typically, you can achieve the same light levels you had with metal halide or fluorescent lighting with lower-rated lumen LED fixtures.
For even greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness, opt for lighting that includes controls. Enabling LED sensors and dimming capabilities where possible ensure that employees use only the light they need, where and when they need it.
For businesses that inherit older facilities that weren’t designed with current manufacturing processes in mind, some spaces may be too bright while others are dim. Consider hiring a lighting designer to perform a study of your space, how you use it, and how it interacts with other elements to maximize savings and improve productivity and employee safety.
- Right-size HVAC schedules and equipment.
Energy requirements for industrial heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems vary widely. To save energy while maintaining comfortable temperatures in large spaces, consider replacing smaller ceiling fans with high-volume, low-velocity fans. These fans can displace more air with less effort and have the added benefit of being quieter.
For ventilation fans used in painting booths, welding rooms, and other spaces that require a specific air turnover rate, install variable frequency drives (VFDs) to save energy when ventilation needs are lower, or the equipment isn’t in use.
For structures with HVAC rooftop units, such as office buildings, replace old or failing equipment with the most efficient option that fits your budget. A more efficient system is usually more expensive but will recoup its cost—and then some—over the life of the unit. Another office space-related opportunity is to mitigate the high cooling costs of server rooms.
- Contain compressed air leaks.
Compressed air systems are energy intensive and can contribute significantly to energy costs—especially if they are leaky, which many are. For businesses that use compressed air for manufacturing processes, it is usually worth the time and expense to perform an air study. These studies monitor how your system uses compressed air and whether any of that air is being wasted. For example, if the business is closed on weekends and you are still seeing high air usage, your system is likely leaking air.
To get ahead of leaks and their associated costs, set up a regular leak maintenance and repair program. Once leaks have been repaired, you can focus on minimizing additional energy use related to air pressure. If you have a fixed-speed compressor but variable needs, consider installing a variable-speed air compressor. If you have multiple compressors, consider installing controls that ensure your system components aren’t working against each other and are staged in the most efficient way possible
- Assess product-specific applications.
Industrial energy efficiency solutions are as varied as the U.S. business landscape. Hydraulic systems that run on oil may be able to be replaced with all-electric options, while superheated processes may benefit from insulation. Dust collectors may not require as much power to perform their required tasks. Regardless of specific applications, you can improve your energy efficiency by keeping systems maintained, turned off when not necessary, and upgrading them with efficient models at the time of replacement.
Questions? Reach out.
Efficiency Smart helps manufacturers—and all types of businesses—identify and assess energy efficiency upgrades to meet a wide range of business goals. We also provide rebates and technical guidance to help you find contractors and complete projects.
Contact your local key account manager or our customer support team at (877) 889-3777 or [email protected].