The United States is still the biggest energy hog in the world. But there have been some improvements. Total energy consumed in the manufacturing sector decreased by 17 percent from 2002 to 2010, according to government data released in 2010. So the manufacturing sector is making headway.
But that may only be a start. And it doesn’t mean that New Jersey’s manufacturing sector has done enough. There are still plenty of ways to reduce costs and improve production by reducing overall energy costs. The question really is: How to do this.
But first, let’s take a look at the biggest energy use categories in manufacturing as a whole. They are process heating, drive power, cogeneration and conventional boiler use. The HVAC system and lighting, the next largest consumers, account for less than four percent of total energy consumption. But that doesn’t mean that energy savings in those categories can’t add up.
Low-Cost Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency
Manufacturers have two primary ways options to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency—along with a third which overlaps with the first two:
Purchasing new equipment is number one, since that equipment will undoubtedly be more energy-efficient. But a new HVAC system—one big energy user–can be expensive. And it may be beyond the reach of most mid-sized Jersey manufacturer today just rebounding form the Great Recession.
The second option is to reduce energy consumption in the present systems and equipment. Done correctly, this option has the potential for almost immediate energy and dollar savings. So it is probably the easiest place to start.
The third option is an energy assessment. In the long run, this option will probably result in the largest energy savings. But it may involve more time and money than an owner is willing to commit. Plus, to do it right it requires identifying an internal energy team that will lead the process—and perhaps even an outside consultant for overall guidance.
Given these choices, it looks as if Option #2 is probably the best way for many manufacturers to get started and achieve immediate energy reduction. Here are three “Fast Fixes” your company may want to consider, plus a link to the “Energy Efficiency Program for Manufacturers” program here in New Jersey.
Area #1–Turning Off Electrical Equipment When Its Not in Use. Turning things off may sound obvious. But many business owners and plant managers don’t think about it. But just consider the savings: For every 1,000 kWh that is saved by turning things off, the company will save approximately $100 on its utility bill (if paying 10 cents per kWh). Under this category you might:
- Institute a walk-through audit. That way, you can find out when the facility needs the most energy and adjust accordingly. If a lot of equipment is left on overnight or over the weekend, you may be able to switch the power off during those times or at least use timed dimmers to reduce consumption.
- Focus on the all energy drains, not just the most obvious: Make sure you include examination of motors, ceiling fans, computers and other office equipment in your walk-through, not just your big systems or pieces of manufacturing equipment. Some of this equipment automatically goes into sleep mode today. But you can also install power strips where that isn’t the case. Or, if you have networked computers, your administrator may be able to adjust the power settings for more efficient usage.
Area #2–Look for Leaks in Compressed Air Systems Up to 20 percent of total electrical use in some industries come from leaks in the compressed air systems. There are many low-cost ways of determining if you have leaks in this system. For instance, you could undertake an air leak survey. Ultrasonic detection equipment is now available that can identify small leaks in a factory environment. Then, if leaks are found, you could tag and characterize them. Solutions vary, but one might be selective use of booster compressors. Finding solutions to these leaks could may produce almost immediate savings.
Area #3–Keep Equipment In Good Working Shape One of the biggest challenges for plant managers if aging equipment. If new equipment can’t be purchased, it’s all the more important to have a tight maintenance schedule for keeping existing equipment in the best shape possible. This can extend the life of your present manufacturing set-up.
Finally, check out a new program designed to help New Jersey manufacturers reduce their energy prices. It’s called the Energy Alliance Program. It increases manufacturers’ buying power by aggregating energy purchases with other NJMEP members. Don’t hesitate, look into this now!