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Small-Time Manufacturers Could Save A Fortune On Their Spiraling Energy Costs

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Npower, the large utility company, recently did a study on how manufacturers could save money on their operations. What they found was remarkable: some businesses were operating right at the bleeding edge of the technological frontier, generating enormous productivity numbers and making enormous savings across their businesses. Others seemed to be stuck in the dark ages, in need of some serious cost-cutting measures and at risk of going out of business because of spiraling expenses.

Let’s have a look at what they found and how small manufacturing outfits can save themselves a fortune.

Control Processes And Process Control

According to the Npower report, overconsumption of energy is one of the largest problems that businesses face. Often it’s the result of poor process control, where manufacturing operations aren’t undertaken in the most energy-efficient way. Switching up the way that businesses carry out their activities doesn’t necessarily require sacrificing product quality, Npower says. Usually, it just means changing a few business procedures and streamlining certain work tasks.

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According to Npower’s own estimate, the average manufacturing outfit could save between 5 and 15 percent on their energy bill by investing in better process control.

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Reduce Furnace Costs

Npower’s energy auditor points out that furnaces usually consume the lion’s share of energy required by manufacturing businesses. After all, temperatures inside furnaces often reach more than 1000 degrees. But, according to Npower, the more efficiently that they are used, the fewer money manufacturers will ultimately have to pay out.

The first thing that the company recommends is that businesses check that their furnace equipment is performing to its specifications. Equipment should come with documentation that details its optimal energy use when new. Significant deviations from this energy consumption over time could indicate a problem with the unit and open up an opportunity to save on energy costs.

The second thing that Npower recommends is to make sure that companies do everything that they can to recover waste heat. Often heat is stored in hot products as they come out of the furnace or in flue gasses. Capturing this heat and turning it back into usable energy is yet another way to save on energy costs. If you look here at Reliant Finishing Systems website, you’ll see that companies are now prioritizing energy saving when building new furnace products.

Thirdly, Npower stresses the importance of carrying out routine maintenance on furnaces. Having a regular maintenance program in place is essential, they say. They also suggest that to maintain your furnace or to make changes, that you enlist the help of a qualified expert. Fortunately, most firms in the business of selling furnaces also have aftermarket support.

More Efficient Steam Generation

Npower points out that many businesses could make dramatic savings in their energy bills if they generate steam more efficiently. According to the company’s auditors, doing things like improving boiler insulation and surrounding equipment, alongside regular maintenance, could improve heat recovery. In other words, more of the energy contained in your gas and electricity makes its way into the water, without heating up the rest of your facility.

The company estimates that manufacturing businesses could save between 10 and 30 percent, simply by upgrading their steam generating and distribution systems.

They also advise that firms that make use of boilers regularly check both boilers and pipework for leaks. Even small wisps of steam escaping from a boiler can have a large effect on energy bills, come to the end of the quarter.

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Cut Compressor Costs

Compressors are used in manufacturing facilities to make compressed air. Even when systems are working correctly, they are very expensive to run, since all of the energy required to compress gasses must come from electricity.

According to Npower’s estimates, a single ⅛ inch hole in a compressed air tank can result in costs of more than $5000 a year in lost energy. What’s more, many companies don’t realize that compressors can still use up to 40 percent of their maximum energy use when idling. The advice, therefore, is to make sure that compressors are turned off when not in use and between shifts to avoid additional energy expenses.

Npower also says that pipes leading to the compressor have a habit of leaking. Often, they say, it’s possible to hear leaks coming from the air distribution network. But sometimes the leaks are small or the wrong shape to produce an acoustic signal. In these cases, it might be necessary to use leak detection equipment to find and repair areas that are damaged. Remember to label leaking areas if you don’t have the equipment to repair a problem, there and then.

Motors And Drives Are An Opportunity For Energy Saving

Motors and drives are used across the manufacturing industry for all sorts of purposes, and they represent a significant opportunity for small manufacturers to save a fortune. Take variable speed drives, for instance. These electronic devices control the supply of electricity to a motor. Usually, these enable the motor to operate in its most efficient range. But sometimes, they malfunction, or they are performing at a level that isn’t optimal. Sometimes a 20 percent reduction in the speed of the motor can lead to a halving of electricity costs. Npower has calculated that in these situations, companies stand to save more than $650 a year on a 2.2kW motor. It has also estimated that it’ll cost about double that for supply and installation of a new variable speed drive, meaning that companies can start accruing savings in as little as two years.

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Don’t Forget The Thermostat

Manufacturing facilities tend to be airy facilities with high ceilings. For that reason, heating them for workers and for processes is never cheap. However, there are some things that you can do to bring your heating bills down, says Npower. They recommend that site office thermostats are set to between 19 and 21 degrees, workshops are between 16 and 19 degrees, and storage rooms around 10 degrees. According to the electricity supplier, this will reduce energy bills by a further 10 percent.

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