While hope abounds for an economic upswing in the new year, organizations remain confronted with a very real recession that challenges them to find new and creative ways to lower operating costs.
As complex as these challenges are, there are several reliable and simple ways to lower operational costs and save money.
The first is to adopt practical preventative maintenance programs that will have your plant running at top efficiency and reduce your facility''s energy expenses.
The second is to make a few relatively minor investments to reduce your plant''s energy requirements and lessen your facility''s energy expenses.
To follow are five easily implemented stepsthat will ensure your facility increases its energy savings and strengthens your organization''s bottom line.
Install Variable Frequency Drives
A cost effective, quick payback method for ensuring your facility reduces energy waste is installing variable frequency drives (VFDs) on motors, chillers and air handlers.
Equipment lacking VFDs will operate at a constant full-load rate even when actual demand is far lower — as it most often is — which results in perpetual energy wastage.
VFDs allow alignment between energy use and demand by regulating the load.
The VFD will enable the motor to run at an output level compatible with actual demand.
In some cases, VFD installation has reduced energy use by up to 50 percent, increased equipment operating life and reduced overall maintenance costs.
VFD purchase and installation requires a very reasonable upfront cost that will pay for itself quickly and yield immediate and long-term savings.
Install Night Set Back Controls
Another simple way to lower energy costs is to reduce the indoor temperature during low occupancy hours in winter and increase indoor temperature during low occupancy periods during summer.
Purchasing night/weekend set back controls for your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a great way to guarantee reduced energy costs.
Set back controls are available in many models from simple, programmable thermostats to more complex models for commercial HVAC systems.
In winter, for example, set back controls automatically reduce the temperature during low occupancy periods, thereby decreasing the temperature difference between inside and outside, which minimizes heat loss.
Decreased heat loss means increased efficiency from your HVAC systems.
Night set back controls provide a year-round solution for reducing night/weekend energy use.
Perform An Annual Infrared Scan
Experienced maintenance managers know that equipment heats up prior to failing.
However, by the time even the best manager can detect this heat, it might be too late to save the equipment or prevent a fire.
Performing annual infrared scans can help detect equipment problems in their early stages and well before a catastrophic failure or fire occurs.
Infrared scanning is a predictive maintenance inspection method that identifies and calculates thermal energy generated by your equipment and electrical distribution system.
Maintenance managers who implement annual infrared scans and inspections have a leg up — the infrared camera provides images otherwise invisible to the eye, allowing managers to get an early jump on potential problems.
Moreover, early detection allows problem equipment to be managed until a repair shutdown can be scheduled with the least disruption to operations.
Infrared scanning is great for boilers, chillers, pumps and electrical switchgear.
While there are costs associated with infrared services, it is a smart investment that pays for itself with the first prevented catastrophic failure or fire.
From increasing equipment efficiency and reducing energy costs to preventing fires and total equipment failures, infrared scanning done by seasoned experts is a wise maintenance strategy.
Conduct Annual Boiler Cleanings
Amazingly, 1⁄32 of an inch of soot in a building''s boiler can cause a 9.5 percent loss of energy efficiency.
Committing to regular preventative facility maintenance will save energy costs and increase the overall energy efficiency of your building.
In addition, annual cleaning can prevent a host of other expensive malfunctions.
Soot and other deposit buildup over time can damage tubes, cause overheating, reduce capacity and raise emission levels — all of which are potentially costly problems to remedy once they occur.
Annual boiler cleaning is a great method for saving energy costs and avoiding expensive repair or additional losses caused by an emergency shutdown.
Perform An Annual Steam Trap Survey
Steam traps are an often overlooked component of a facility''s energy system.
Faulty steam traps can result in the loss of thousands of dollars a year in wasted energy.
Clogged, sticky or worn steam traps can also result in the destruction of equipment.
The lack of proactive preventative maintenance frequently results in dirt buildup and pipe scaling.
This dirt and debris eventually plugs the trap or, in many cases, prevents the trap from sealing, resulting in lost steam, wasted energy and a variety of equipment, humidity, condensate and paint issues.
An experienced steam trap survey team will provide managers with a detailed map of the facility''s steam traps.
After the initial survey and tests, facility managers will know where all of their steam traps are located and how each is performing.
Failed or underperforming steam traps will be identified and can then be cleaned and repaired, rebuilt or replaced as appropriate.
Subsequent yearly inspections and executing needed cleaning or repair will maintain efficiency gains and result in continued energy savings, increased system efficiency and lower plant operating costs.
Proactive preventative maintenance is essential during difficult economic periods.
Many organizations make short-sighted budget cuts, which often include scaling back or eliminating important preventative maintenance programs.
These short-term budget cuts will ultimately be overshadowed by long-term losses.
Making a few quick payback investments that lead to reduced energy requirements, greater efficiency and reduced energy costs will accelerate demand reduction, efficiency gains and energy cost reductions while reducing equipment repair costs and extending equipment service life.
While implementing the energy saving steps above requires some upfront investment, the short- and long-term benefits of proactive preventative maintenance will result in reduced plant operating expenses and "found" money that can benefit your entire organization.
Bill Zielinski is vice president of American Combustion Industries Inc. (ACI), a full-service facility support contractor servicing Maryland, Washington and Virginia. Zielinski has 29 years of industry experience with expertise in mechanical systems and combustion control systems. He is a member of professional associations ISA, NAPE, ASHRAE and Oil Heat Service Managers, and speaks regularly on boiler systems and operations. More information on ACI can be found at www.aciindustries.com.