In most business, the energy used to power HVAC systems and lights accounts for at least 65 percent of electrical costs. At factories, however, large pieces of machinery consume the lion’s share. To keep industrial electricity rates down to reasonable levels, you must examine the internal conditions and usage habits from multiple angles as well as reconsider the terms and price structure of your current provider.
At manufacturing facilities, there are many ways to reduce electricity costs. For starters, you must determine which machines and fixtures are responsible for overconsumption. From there, you can decide which machines should either be shut down or placed in low-energy mode during select hours. Alternatively, equipment maintenance and upgrades can also help you lower your rates. The most effective methods to cut industrial electricity costs can be broken down as follows:
Lowering manufacturing electricity usage begins with a knowledge of your current consumption rates. To learn more about your usage levels, have an energy audit performed on your facility. This way, you can learn exactly how much electricity your facility uses in an average day and what you could do to adjust those usage rates. Are there certain machines that claim more than their fair share of electricity? An audit will help you pinpoint these discrepancies and take proper action to rectify matters.
One of the more effective ways to reduce manufacturing electricity costs is to schedule operations for off-peak-demand hours. At factories, the busiest times for machine use are generally between noon and 8 pm. These are the hours when energy consumption is at its peak across the grids of most electrical utilities.
In an effort to reduce energy consumption during these on-peak hours, some factories have taken incentives from demand response (DR) programs to reduce the number of consumptive operations that take place in the daytime. This goal is achieved by selecting high-powered processes that could feasibly be performed at any hour, day or night, and moving those operations to off hours.
Some of the most wasteful uses of energy at industrial facilities are drawn from the motors, lights, heaters and vents that remain active throughout the day in unoccupied areas. The act of deactivating these components may seem rudimentary, but in a facility where electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), there would be a $100 utility reduction for every 1,000 kWh of electricity saved.
Motors consume vast amounts of electrical power, which makes it crucial to use them wisely and shut them down when the operations in question come to a halt. To avoid wasteful electrical costs from motors, perform the following steps:
Make sure that each given motor is deactivated during hours when it serves no purpose.
Another major energy drain at industrial facilities is lighting, particularly extraneous, idle lights. Much of this problem is due to negligence on the part of factory personnel, who leave lights on in rooms that are unattended. Eliminating this habit can significantly reduce electrical consumption at a manufacturing facility. To rectify the issue of idle lights, do the following:
Reposition machinery and clear away objects that might obscure light switches in certain rooms.
A third major source of rampant energy consumption is the computer system, especially rooms filled with assorted screens, towers, and peripherals. If your facility is equipped with multiple computers, consider shutting down the peripheral ones overnight and on weekends. Alternately, program most of the computers to go into an energy-save mode during off hours.
At certain facilities, space heaters drain untold amounts of electrical power. Space heaters are sometimes set up in certain rooms and areas to supply warmth and supplement a facility’s HVAC system. However, these heaters are often left active in unattended rooms and areas. Moreover, the very presence of these heaters indicates an insufficient dispersal of HVAC energy. For these and many other reasons, space heaters should be deactivated in unattended quarters and removed wherever possible.
At manufacturing facilities, certain types of equipment cannot be shut down at any time. Examples include HVAC units and vending machines. However, you can still save electricity by placing these machines in energy-save mode during hours when they are not in full use.
You can make an HVAC system more energy efficient by installing a programmable thermostat. This way, the HVAC will know when a given area has reached a sufficient level of warmth or coolness. Equipping the system with multiple readers to auto-adjust temperatures in select areas and keeping up with preventive maintenance can also keep your HVAC system running efficiently.
To reduce wasteful electrical consumption from vending machines, equip each machine with an occupancy sensor. This will let the machine know when the area in question is unoccupied. A sensor could help you halve the amount of electrical consumption attributed to this power drain.
At facilities that are fully equipped with lights throughout each area, some lights will need to be on at all times. However, certain lights could be dimmed in select parts of rooms if no activity is taking place. With photosensors and other types of lighting control, lighting could be bright in the spaces where the people are present and dimmer in the peripheral areas of these same rooms.
Managing electricity costs in manufacturing facilities requires maintenance. To that end, each piece of equipment that uses electricity should be inspected on a periodic basis and cleaned if necessary.
One of the biggest causes of energy waste is a failing motor. As motors slowly lose their power, the mechanisms strain just to function adequately and consume more energy in the process. In some cases, the problem will be exacerbated by voltage imbalances, which send shock waves through a motor and cause it to act more erratically. To prevent these issues from spiraling out of hand, inspect each motor periodically and lubricate the parts as needed. Clean dust away from vents and check for proper air flow.
Other major sources of mechanical strain and electrical drainage are the fans, belts and bearings that move the internal mechanisms of most factory machines. A fan, for instance, can lose its torque due to dulled blades and moving parts. Bearings, meanwhile, can corrode from constant friction if the lubricant rots or is not applied in sufficient quantities. Belts also need to be replaced periodically, otherwise, they crack and go dull as they lose their flexibility.
To prevent problems with belts, bearings and fans, check each of these components in all factory machinery at least once per year. If the belts are dull or cracked, replace them immediately. Lube the bearings as needed or change them out if corrosion has taken hold. Inspect the blades and wheels of each fan to verify that everything is functioning properly.
In many cases, spiraling costs at manufacturing plants result from insufficient air compressors. The problem is usually the result of air leaks, which reduce the efficiency of air compressors and cause them to consume more energy. Often, leaks go undetected. On poorly maintained air compressors, leaks can waste up to a third of the pressurized air generated in the machine.
When it comes to electricity consumption, leaks in air compressors are wasteful in two ways. First, leaks allow large quantities of pressurized air to escape the machine, making the machines highly inefficient. Moreover, unknowing operators will increase the pressure on a leaky air compressor to compensate for the lost efficiency, using even more energy in the process.
To lower the amount of energy waste caused by air compressors, inspect the internal components on a periodic basis. Empty out the drain trays several times each week, clear the air filters once each month and lubricate the internal moving parts every season.
As light bulbs and fixtures get discolored and dirty, the amount of emitted light is gradually reduced from these sources. To compensate, facility personnel will often place additional lighting fixtures in the affected settings. What this really does is cause an increase in electrical consumption when the problem could be more easily solved with simple maintenance of the light fixtures.
When lights are used day in, day out, the bulbs and fixtures are prone to develop yellowish or brownish tints, which have an unwanted shading effect. The buildup of dust on these surfaces can also diminish the brightness of the light. To prevent this problem from becoming a source of electrical waste, clean light bulbs and light fixtures on a periodic basis. Also consider switching to LED lights, which last longer and consume less energy.
Outdated equipment can be a major source of energy consumption because the technology behind such equipment is less efficient in nature than today’s new and improved models. Often times, machines that are large, loud and bulky will consume more energy than the quieter, smoother-running and more compact counterparts built in recent years.
If your facility is equipped with assorted equipment built more than 10 years ago, take inventory of what could possibly be replaced with newer models. An investment in new equipment could pay itself back over time through improved performance and reduced electrical consumption.
If you have long relied on the same electrical utility, you may be unaware of the options available today. Over the past 20 years, the electrical market has become more competitive thanks to deregulation, which has given rise to electrical suppliers that are better equipped to handle the unique needs of manufacturing facilities. A simple search for industrial electricity providers in your area could bring up numerous relevant matches.
Before you set your sights on a new electricity supplier, make sure that the company is honest and credible. You can easily make this determination by doing an internet search for the prospective supplier to see its rating among facilities that have used the service. Are the supplier’s current business customers happy or dissatisfied with the service? Have these facilities gotten the industrial electricity rates that they were promised or have the rates increased without explanation?
Before you switch from a regular utility to an industrial electrical supplier, make sure that the prospective company offers round-the-clock service, reliable billing, fair prices and reports that let you track your usage.
Shipley Energy has been a leading supplier of fuel and energy at manufacturing facilities for more than 90 years. Since the deregulation of the electricity sector, we have been able to offer competitive industrial electricity rates to facilities in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
At Shipley, we negotiate fair pricing structures with each facility we supply with electricity. The needs and budgeting calendar for each company is different and we work to develop a plan that is best suited for your timetable. Bills are sent in a streamlined, predictable manner from Shipley and we are always available 24/7 for help and emergency assistance.
Shipley Energy offers commercial services that feature year-round savings, predictable pricing and simplicity. We offer multiple pricing options, allowing your business to make choices that best-suit your bottom line. Contact Shipley Energy to learn more about our commercial electricity services for manufacturing and industrial facilities.