6 ways to make your manufacturing business more energy efficient

Manufacturing businesses face a unique set of energy management challenges. Buildings can be huge and equipment costly - and costly to run.

With that in mind, here are tips for managing energy usage in every area of your manufacturing business.

Energy over-consumption is almost always the result of poor process control.

Most manufacturing processes can be undertaken more energy-efficiently. But changing processes doesn't necessarily mean changing or compromising what your business produces.

And, in fact, process control that's more energy efficient could reduce your energy bill by between 5% and 15%.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

Reducing scrap material and improving yield may be the biggest single factor in reducing your furnace's energy use.

Furnaces usually consume a very large proportion of the energy a manufacturing business consumes. The more efficiently they're used, the less energy you pay for. The following actions require little or no expense, but could save energy and money. If you're making changes to your furnace or to its controls or components, be sure to enlist the help of an expert.

Check your furnace's current operating conditions against its original design specifications and historical data to see if yield is less than it should be - and what you can do to improve it.

Look at the way your furnace is charged and unloaded

This could have a significant effect on its safe operation, yield and energy consumption.

Carry out regular maintenance

To optimise furnace performance and maintain yield, commit to a regular maintenance program.

Recover waste heat

A large proportion of the energy used by furnaces is lost either in the flue gases or through the hot product. If this heat can be recovered and re-used in the process, then less energy will be required.

More words of wisdom

Ensure that operation of your furnace is properly aligned to your production schedule. Lightly loaded or under utilised furnaces can account for significant energy consumption and costs.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

More efficient steam generation and distribution could reduce your energy use by 10% to 30%.

The energy efficiency of both steam and hot water boilers can be enhanced by regular maintenance, improving the insulation (on both the boiler and surrounding equipment), by reducing boiler blowdown, and by taking steps to improve heat recovery.

You could also:

Check for leaks

Leaks are easily detected - look for wisps of steam leaking from faulty steam traps, pipework flanges and joints. Even a small hole can waste a lot of steam so it is important to find and repair them promptly.

Seal off any redundant pipework

Close it off as near to the boiler as possible and avoid unnecessary heat losses.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

Cut compressor costs

Compressed air is produced using electricity, making it a very expensive utility. Compressors are also a major source of energy wastage. Depending on use and pressure, compressed air leaking through a single 3mm hole could cost you around £4,000 per year. And an idling compressor can still use 40% of its full load. If yours isn't being used, make sure it's switched off, especially at the end of shifts and over weekends.

Perform regular leak tests on compressed air distribution pipework. At the end of shifts when it is quiet, it is often possible to hear leaks from distribution pipework. Leak detection equipment can also be used for more accurate results. Leaks found should be labelled and repaired promptly.

Minimise the flow of cooling water

Most processes use cooling water that requires to pump the water around the cooling circuit. Minimising the flow of cooling water may save energy.

Cool water to an appropriate temperature

Refrigeration chillers, used to cool water, are big users of energy. Reduce costs by cooling water no lower than the required temperature.

Manage your use of industrial gases

The production and storage of industrial gases like oxygen, nitrogen and argon is very energy intensive. Measure and review your usage on an on-going basis.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

 

Motors are widely used across manufacturing businesses to drive pumps, fans and other equipment, and offer excellent opportunities for energy savings.

Use a timer or automatic sensor to turn off pumps and fans

Motors that are inadvertently left on can be a big drain on energy.

Reduce fan loads

Lessen the amount of fresh air drawn into buildings or reduce the gas flows used in various process operations.

Install variable speed drives on motors

A variable speed drive (VSD) is an electronic device that controls a motor's electrical supply so that it mostly works at its most efficient regime. A 20% reduction in motor speed could reduce the power requirement by just under 50% - quite significant when you consider that one average (2.2kW) motor can cost over £500 to run every year. VSDs costs vary based upon motor rating. As a guide for motors installed in SME businesses, costs will range from £750 – £1,500 for supply and installation of a VSD.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

While buildings likely represent only a small part of the overall energy use of your manufacturing site, the potential for saving may still be important.

With large square footage and high ceilings, manufacturing buildings may need significant heating and ventilation, depending on the time of year and the manufacturing processes taking place.

Manage and monitor your heating and ventilation systems effectively and you could reduce your energy bill by 10%. Focus on these simple measures:

Set your thermostat to the recommended temperature

That's 19°C to 21°C for site offices, 16°C to 19°C for workshops, and 10°C to 12°C for stores.

Check all timer switches regularly

If you install timers to automatically switch off lighting or heating, make sure they're in good working order.

Get your employees on board

At your next staff meeting discuss the cost of heating your building and encourage employees not to leave doors and windows open.

More words of wisdom

Heating control systems are sometimes tampered with when the weather changes or shift patterns change. Be sure to check them on a regular basis.

Source: High temperature industry - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business sector overview, Carbon Trust, March 2012

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