Ask an Engineer:
Energy Savings for Small Manufacturers
As a small manufacturing facility, what areas should we focus on to improve our energy performance?
Although manufacturing processes vary, the cost-saving strategies that follow apply in different types of facilities of all sizes.
Upgrade and maintain motors
Replacing older motors with properly sized premium efficiency models is an excellent long-term saving strategy with a reasonable payback. Preventive maintenance measures can help to optimize savings; these include voltage imbalance minimization, motor ventilation, alignment and lubrication.
Fix compressed air leaks
Compressed air is a very expensive form of energy because of its poor efficiency — often as low as 10%. Air leaks are a significant source of wasted energy. Common sources for leaks include couplings, hoses, pipe joints, fittings and shut-off valves. The best way to detect leaks is with an ultrasonic detector, which recognizes the high-frequency hissing sounds that leaks make. Leak detection and repair should be an ongoing program.
Maintain steam traps
Without regular maintenance, up to 30% of steam traps may fail. A simple program of checking steam traps to ensure they are operating properly can save significant amounts of energy at a small cost. In addition to energy and cost savings, properly functioning steam traps reduce the risk of corrosion in the steam distribution system.
Install variable frequency drives
Motors operate at a constant speed while the equipment they operate often has varying demand. As a result, motors often waste energy by running at a higher speed than necessary. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) save energy by altering motor speed in response to changing needs. VFDs can be used with motors on pumps, conveyor belts and production equipment. They’re a good fit for manufacturing environments with long operating hours and fluctuating loads.
Fluorescent tube lamps with magnetic ballasts are widely used in manufacturing facilities, even though they are no longer manufactured for sale in the U.S. due to federal regulations. High-efficiency LED retrofits offer an economical upgrade opportunity. LEDs offer superior light quality and they start instantly, making them a good fit for energy-saving controls.