|Energy Management Strategies That Can Save Facilities Thousands
|In today's tough economic times, companies considering operational innovations can reduce their uncertainty with a solid energy risk management strategy.
Joseph Falci, Senior Director, Rate Analysis & Energy Procurement, Advantage IQ (Winter 2011)
After choosing an industrial site for your company, performing daily operations in the most cost-effective way becomes the top priority. Owners can drive savings with cost-cutting measures, and many require little or no money. A few small steps can lead to significant savings.
Save with Inexpensive, Green Strategies (1/6)
Businesses can realize significant cost savings by making some inexpensive adjustments to their facility's efficiency. Sustainable strategies that target HVAC, lighting, building envelope, and water usage can shave dollars off operating costs and green your business. Read on for recommendations in each of these four categories.
1. HVAC (2/6)
Simply raising the facility thermostat during warm periods and lowering it in cooler months can whittle away at heating and cooling costs. Investing in automatic start and shut-off controls can ultimately result in savings. Make sure that no area of the facility is excessively heated or cooled. And ask employees to leave personal fans or heaters at home.
2. Lighting (3/6)
Depending on the type of facility, lighting can account for up to half of total energy use. Ensure the space is properly lit with a light meter and install dimmers if necessary. Seek out energy efficient bulbs. And consider installing sensors that will only turn lights on when a space is occupied.
Next: Building Envelope
3. Building Envelope (4/6)
The savings a facility realizes by getting HVAC in tip-top order can go out the window - literally - if building envelope is ignored. Especially in facilities with truck bays, ensure that doors are open only when necessary. Invest in insulation to close gaps around windows and doors. And check for broken doors, windows, slats, tracks, and seals.
4. Water (5/6)
Continuously monitor faucets, sinks, hot water systems, hydrants, and irrigation systems for leaks. And don't overlook water fountains: problems there can indicate a larger issue with water and plumbing systems.
Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) are the easiest ways to cut costs and improve sustainability. These ECMs can come with no cost, a smaller expense, or a more significant investment. Industrial locations are challenging, as many sites' energy usage encompasses a greater percentage of the cost of goods sold. For example, retail sites use energy to power lights and cash registers, but this consumption does not necessarily affect the price of the merchandise.
However, if you are an industrial customer and electricity and natural gas play a large part in the cost of goods sold, the way you use energy, either from managing usage or managing cost, has a direct effect on profitability and the bottom line. The expense is directly proportional to the type of industrial facility. Industrial users that consume large amounts of energy, like steel plants or conveyor sites, must track energy usage closely.
The First Step
An owner must first focus on the drivers of energy usage and how to control them to reduce costs. Answer these basic questions: What are the energy consuming devices, processes, and tools? What consumes the most energy? What building controls could be improved?
For example, if a site has loading docks, the amount of building space exposed to outside air and leaking air-conditioned or heated air can increase energy consumption. Sites with significant refrigeration, or the constant temperature regulation of a distribution center, are other industrial-specific drivers.
Energy management service consultants can help categorize energy usage into process and non-process loads and identify ways to purchase this energy in a deregulated market. Non-process energy loads include electricity consumed by computers, lighting, HVAC, and general daily operations. Process loads include energy used by melting steel and welding, to running conveyors and other manufacturing processes.
To manage process loads, an owner must rely on internal engineering staff to identify ways to reduce consumption. These engineers know the plant operating systems inside and out, and will know exactly which operations run on which types of energy and for how long. They may also advise on switching an operating system from electricity to natural gas or another cost-effective source.
Industrial owners should focus on four categories to reduce energy consumption and waste and cut costs.
Heating and air conditioning systems are a major contributor to energy consumption. Implement temperature set points and the difference of a few degrees could save hundreds without affecting employee comfort. The temperature set point is the most energy efficient temperature for a facility. Raise the temperature in cooler seasons and lower it in the warmer seasons. This can be done with an existing energy management system, programmable thermostats, or manually.
Next, verify optimum start and start programming, an energy conserving feature for HVAC systems that automatically adjusts the equipment's operating schedule depending on the temperatures inside and outside. Start and stop programming will slash energy waste and spending. This programming starts HVAC systems as late as possible and shuts them down as early as possible while maintaining temperature set points during occupancy.
Check internal control systems for optimal performance. While it might feel like a comfortable 72 degrees, the system could be working too hard. A professional can observe and retrofit underperforming control systems, dramatically conserving energy and reducing consumption.
In the summer, stage multiple chillers from highest to lowest efficiency. Avoid using inefficient equipment unless absolutely necessary. For example, part of one client's facility was freezing, while another part was too warm. To keep one part of the building comfortable, the client had to overcool the other part. Ensuring that the appropriate controls and efficient equipment are in place will eliminate a costly and uncomfortable work environment.
Check for proper boiler temperature settings and possible night shut off. And discourage personal heaters or fans.
Lighting is often the top energy and cost drain for industrial buildings, and can account for as much as 50 percent of a facility's energy use. Cut industrial lighting costs with these strategies:
• Check illumination levels with a light meter to determine if the facility is excessively lit. (There are standards for appropriate illumination by industry.) Using dimmers or turning lights off can save energy.
• Install occupancy sensors that automatically turn lights on when someone enters a room and shut them off when the room is empty.
• Utilize optimum start and stop settings where lights will not turn on simply by a time of day, but will also illuminate the proper amount of ambient light into the space.
Maintaining optimal energy usage in building envelopes is especially difficult for industrial buildings, as there are often long periods where truck bays may be open. When possible, the building envelope should be tightly sealed to ensure that air stays put. To ensure a secure building envelope, keep all exterior doors and windows closed. Doors near truck bays are the biggest offenders when it comes to wasting energy.
Additionally, make sure that electronically controlled doors open and close properly. Check overhead doors for broken slats, worn seals, or bent tracks. Check insulation and roof integrity. A leaky roof can dampen insulation, which compromises the building envelope's efficiency.
Small leaks around the building can cost owners thousands of dollars a year in utility costs. Check faucets, toilets, hot water systems, hydrants, and irrigation systems for leaks. Make sure water fountains work properly. If they don't, they could signal a bigger, more expensive problem.
Reap the Benefits
Each facility is unique, so no advice will apply evenly to every property. But these cost saving measures can reduce energy consumption and improve the bottom line. Applied across a real estate portfolio, they can help identify which properties are most efficient and which may be running on outdated equipment.
Determine the energy performance of your portfolio, then focus on the high-cost, high-use facilities. Raise awareness across your organization to involve all employees in the energy conservation program. Create a competitive environment to encourage participation.
Lastly, quantify the energy savings. Get the data to prove your program's effectiveness and figure out how much you've saved so you can invest those funds in more expensive - and effective - operations.